How to Recognize and Avoid Phishing Scams
How often do you receive texts, emails, and calls from colleagues, friends, family, and even strangers? Do you trust and respond to these messages regardless of their requests? While it’s okay to respond, some of your responses may lead you to a phishing scam.
Phishing scams tend to rob you of your identity, password, and personal financial information. Online pirates disguise themselves as friends, colleagues, and even family members to get this information from you. Afterward, they use the stolen information to acquire debt in your name, withdraw cash from your checking account, and use your credit card to make purchases.
Therefore, it’s important to learn how to recognize and avoid phishing scams for your financial and personal good.
Types of Phishing Techniques
For you to understand how to recognize and avoid phishing scams, you should familiarize yourself with the types of phishing techniques scammers use. They include the following;
- Email phishing- This is the most common phishing technique out there. Here, online pirates will register a fake website or domain name to mimic a real organization. They’ll then send a common email request to several inboxes, including yours.
- Spear phishing- Unlike email phishing, this phishing attack is made purposefully for you. It may include personal information such as your name, school or employer, recent online activities, grade level, job title, and recent online purchases.
- Smishing and vishing- Smishing attacks use text messages, while vishing attacks involve telephone calls. For both phishing attacks to be successful, a scammer may pose as someone you know. This may be an imposter friend, colleague, service provider, or internet agent.
- Angler phishing- Angler phishing happens on social media networks where you’re duped to download malware or give up sensitive information. Such information includes birthdays, geotagging, and names.
- Whaling- This phishing technique uses personalized messages targeting a big ‘fish’ of an organization. It can be a CEO or board member. These individuals are victims of this phishing attack because of their level of influence and access to sensitive information.
How to Recognize a Phishing Scam
Technological advancements are fueling the growth of many sectors including the growth and sophistication of phishing attacks, making it hard to recognize phishing advances. Still, there are tale-tell phishing signs you can look out for to stay safe. They include:
- Typos and grammar mistakes– Long gone are the days when typos and grammar mistakes were a common thing. Today, emails with such kinds of mistakes should serve as a red flag that someone’s phishing for sensitive information.
- Generic greetings– Generic phishing techniques use common salutations such as “Dear Account Holder,” “Dear Sir,” and “Dear Madam.” Be on the lookout when responding to messages with such generic greetings.
- Unrealistic offers– Online pop-ups or email links to websites that offer too-good-to-be-true deals act as phishing hooks. The offers may be the latest phone versions or vacations at throw-away prices. However tempting they’re just resist them.
- Bank messages requesting for verification of your personal information– Banks and other financial institutions are professional bodies. As such, they’re highly unlikely to request you to verify your personal information over text or email messages. This includes filling out your social security number, PIN, and bank account number.
- Hyperlinks– You shouldn’t trust messages or emails that contain fake or misspelled hyperlinks and domain names.
- Message or email senders you don’t recognize– The best way to deal with such senders is to delete their messages or emails. But, if you decide to read these messages, don’t download any files or click on their links.
- Imposter requests– When you receive a request to send money or share personal information with someone you think you know; you should think twice. In reality, the person may be an imposter acting as a friend, relative, or colleague. Imposters compromise the contact list of someone you know to transact fraudulent activities.
- Attachments that don’t make sense- Phishers may attach files that don’t add up in their messages. So, if the attachment appears spammy, doesn’t add value, or makes no sense- avoid them.
As much as Google’s spam filter is 99.9% effective in blocking phishing scams and malware from getting into your inbox, that doesn’t mean you’re safe from phishing attacks. You need to be on the lookout for the 0.01% of scams that get to your inbox by observing the above signs of phishing attacks.
Tips to Avoid Phishing Scams
The following are simple tips you can adopt to avoid phishing scams;
- Use stronger authentication login details such as two-step verification, where a one-time pin is sent to your phone.
- Automate the updating of anti-virus software. They include anti-spyware and firewalls.
- Use passwords that are strong and long. You can incorporate a mix of lowercase and uppercase characters with numbers and symbols to achieve strong passwords.
- Don’t share information on unsecured sites that don’t start with “https” or lack a closed padlock icon in the URL.
- You can rotate your passwords regularly to limit the accessibility of your account by a potential phisher.
What Next for Phishing Scam Victims?
Once you notice that you’re a phishing scam victim, contact your bank or financial institution immediately and notify them of your situation. You can tell if you are a phishing scam victim by frequently reviewing your account statements. Account statements that you don’t recognize are most likely due to a phishing scam.
Also, notifying the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) is crucial. They’ll help by putting out a fraud alert on your behalf. This will limit phishers from opening new accounts using your name.
You should also file a report with the FTC when dealing with suspicious calls or emails.
Phishing scams can dent your financial statements, ruin your personal and business brands, and result in a loss of proprietary information. And that’s why you need to be able to recognize and avert phishing scams early. Remember, these scams originate from total strangers or people you think you know.
iLock360, a subsidiary of TCG, provides identity theft and credit monitoring services for individuals. We are your next step to avoiding phishing expeditions that result in financial turmoil and identity theft.