In general, “phishing” refers to any number of schemes that are aimed at obtaining an individual’s personal data. This includes their name, date of birth, social security info, bank account numbers, credit card info, passwords, and other data. In most phishing scams, contact is made with the victim through mail or telephone calls.
Search engine phishing occurs through online website search engines. Here, the person may encounter offers or messages that entice the person to visit the website. The search process may be legitimate, but the website is actually fake and only exists to steal the person’s personal information.
Search engine phishing schemes can come in a number of different forms. Some common examples of search engine phishing include:
- Free/Discount Offers: Here, the website may offer products at highly discounted prices, or it may offer free items, which the entities behind the website do not actually possess and will not send out. In order to obtain the nonexistent “products," the person must supply their confidential information.
- Job Offers: Fake job offers may be presented, which require the person to enter in their social security number. These offers may come up in connection with job searches online.
- Emergency Situations: Some websites may attempt to scare the consumer into providing information due to some emergency or urgent situation. An example of this a website that states that the person’s computer has a virus.
Again, the important thing is that these fraudulent pages exist on legitimate search engine channels, such as Bing and Google. Thus, it is important that you verify the legitimacy of a website whenever using search engines on the computer. Search engine phishing scams can result in identity theft in the long run.
Search engine phishing scams can cause financial losses for individuals and for business entities. They are also against the law and can lead to criminal penalties, including fines and jail time. You can report a search engine phishing scam to authorities and/or business bureaus in your city. Such a report can help begin an investigation into the apparent scam. In some cases, a lawsuit may be filed, especially for large operations that result in class action suits.
Search engine phishing is a relatively new phenomenon, and the laws governing these crimes will differ from state to state. You may need to hire a criminal lawyer if you need to file a claim for phishing violations. A qualified attorney near you can represent you in court and can help explain how the laws might affect the outcome of your case.