Learn what pharming is and how to spot and avoid it

What is pharming?

Pharming is an online attack that directs people from a trusted website to another site that’s owned by a fraudster. The fake site creates a way for fraudsters to steal important information that could help them access your finances.

How do fraudsters do it?

The first involves an initial Phishing  scam. A fraudster will contact the victim via email, pretending to be a well-known organisation, and ask them to click a malicious link. If the link is clicked, it will install a virus on the user’s computer that diverts users to the fake website.

The second method involves the criminal targeting a legitimate website with a virus. When a user enters that website address into the search bar, the virus will take them to the fake website.

Examples of pharming

Fake websites are utilised to install viruses on the user’s computer, something known as a ‘drive-by infection', or attempt to collect personal or financial information directly, with specific prompts.

In a lot of cases, a hijacked website just redirects to fake anti-virus software sites or advertisements – thankfully these fake websites are usually easy to recognise. If you’re ever taken to a page that urges you to download an antivirus software or update a programme you didn’t know you had, make sure you research it before taking action. 

How to prevent pharming

It’s important to install an antivirus software that will catch any viruses before they damage your computer

Look out for an “invalid certificate” message popping up in your browser – this could be a sign that you’ve been taken to an untrustworthy site

Never submit your data to a website which doesn’t present a padlock icon in the address bar – the padlock indicates that your data is encrypted and therefore can’t be intercepted when it travels between you and the website owner, however, be mindful that the presence of a padlock does not mean the website itself is genuine. Fraudsters have now started to use encryption on their sites to  increase the likelihood that potential victims will trust the site, and will enter their personal credentials.

Double check the URL website address in the address bar is definitely the right website. A quick Google search of the brand will make sure you are on the right site plus it could highlight any issues that other people may have come across.

You need to carefully check the address for subtle misspellings, additional words and characters and other irregularities which might suggest it’s not authentic.

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