What has become the most troubling of trends in recent years is something called phishing. Phishing is an attempt to mine for personal information such as Social Security numbers, bank account and routing numbers, passwords to online banking, and driver's license numbers as a way to steal your identity and then your personal resources. The way phishing typically works is through an initial e-mail that purports to come from your bank, your credit union or from Amazon.com, Paypal, or some other Internet entity. The e-mail looks genuine and purports to come from a trusted source. It may even have genuine links leading to a legitimate site. Once you click on the link, you will be whisked to their site and, oftentimes, will be at their prey. Please don't be taken in by these criminals. It is the same as someone randomly dialing you over the phone and asking you to give them your personal information or the keys to your financial kingdom. In some cases the culprits empty bank accounts so quickly and transfer the monies to overseas accounts that are untraceable. Why does a cleverly-designed phony e-mail merit any more attention than a quick deletion? Yet, thousands have been fooled and hundreds of new phishing attempts occur every day. Be concious that things may not be way they seem. Always type the URL (universal resource locator) of Internet sites you know in the browser's address bar. Don't click on links you don't know. Also, take the time out to forward the phony e-mails to your Internet service provider's fraud department. The sooner they can decipher from whom these messages are sent, the quicker the crooked parties will be thrown into prison and their victims will have a chance at getting restitution. The good news is that today's most updated browsers (internet Explorer 7.0 and Mozilla Firefox 2.0) will warn you of phishing attempts and prevent you from making a mistake you will regret for the rest of your lives. Also, check with the federal government's http://onguardonline.gov for more information. Remember: NO banking institution or Internet mainstay like PayPal, e-Bay, Amazon, etc. will ever request personal information via an e-mail. They will utilize secure socket layers (the browser begins with https:) to make certain that the information is encrypted and never sent through an unsecured location. Many doctors' offices and hospitals (pharmacies too) have to comply with H.I.P.P.A and have to provide encryption and security when sending private and personal information over the Internet. It goes without saying to be careful to never give out your full Social Security number to any party other than your bank, your broker, or a true and trusted government official and then only in person. We'll next tackle the problems with hoaxes and why we should all be cautious in forwarding e-mails to warn our neighbors of potential problems.