Cybersecurity Awareness Month – Fight the Phish
Phishing is a cybercrime where scammers try to extract sensitive and valuable information from you by disguising themselves as trustworthy sources. While scammers use multiple phishing scams, the ultimate goal remains the same: to obtain the victim’s personal information.
The reason behind wanting your personal information is to access your bank accounts or credit cards. Sometimes they’ll send countless fake email and text messages across the globe, hoping that they’ll trick enough people into surrendering this sensitive information.
How to recognize phishing?
Scammers trap their victims into handing over their personal information via email or text messages. For example, they may try to steal your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers.
Once they have obtained those details, they could easily access your email, banks, or other online accounts. As a result, hundreds of phishing attacks are committed every day – and they are often successful.
According to an FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center report, $57 million were lost to phishing scams in one year. While scammers are often updating their tactics, few basic signs will assist you in recognizing a phishing email or text message.
Phishing emails or text messages may appear like they are from an authentic source that you trust. For example, the bank, credit card company, social networking site, online store, or online payment website.
Phishing emails or text messages may tell you a story to deceive you into clicking on the link or launching an attachment. They may:
- Notify you of some dubious account activity
- Claim there’s a problem with your account or payment information
- Ask you to confirm some personal information
- Include a counterfeit bill
- Offer free coupon
Steps to protect yourself from phishing
There are several steps you can take to protect against phishing:
1. If you receive a suspicious email
- Do not reply, even if you recognize the sender as a well-known business or financial institution. Instead, it’d be best to contact them directly and ask to verify the information.
- Do not click any links provided in these emails (or cut and paste them into a browser). Clicking upon those links may cause your system to download various viruses or malware.
- Do not open any attachments. If you aren’t expecting an attachment, confirm with the senders whether they sent the attachment.
- Do not enter your personal information or password on untrusted websites or forums.
2. Install an anti-phishing toolbar
Many popular internet browsers can be customized to be equipped with anti-phishing toolbars. These toolbars can run quick checks on the websites you visit and compare them to lists of the most popular phishing websites.
If you accidentally visit a malicious website, the toolbar will alert you immediately. While this layer of protection against phishing scams is completely free, it is quite effective.
3. Check your online accounts regularly
If you have an online account that you haven’t operated in a while, chances are someone could be having a field day with it. Even if you don’t need to, make sure to check in with each of your online accounts regularly.
Developing a habit of changing your account passwords regularly is quite effective as well. By checking your financial accounts statements regularly, you can protect yourself from bank phishing or credit card phishing scams.
4. Keep your browser up to date
Due to various security loopholes that can be exploited by phishers and other hackers, most popular internet browsers release security patches regularly. It is highly recommended to keep your browser updated at all times.
Also, for additional security and protection, you can add one of the best browser VPN extensions to your browser. They will protect you from various online threats and allow you to bypass several content geo-blocks.
5. Using an antivirus software
While there are many reasons to use antivirus software, their special signatures guard against known technology workarounds, and loopholes remain the most prominent.
New definitions are added all the time because new scams are also being dreamed up all the time. Anti-spyware and firewall settings should be used to prevent phishing attacks, and users should update the programs regularly.
Also, many antivirus software with VPN technology block attacks from malicious sources and allow you to circumvent various geo-restrictions.
What to do if you suspect a phishing attack?
If you suspect that an email or text message you received is a phishing attempt:
- Do not open it. In many cases, the very act of opening the phishing email may end up compromising your personally identifiable information.
- Delete it immediately. This act will prevent you from accidentally opening the message in the future.
- Do not download any attachments. Usually, the attachments accompanying the message contain malware such as viruses, worms, or spyware.
- Do not click on the links that appear in the message. The links attached in the messages usually redirect you to fraudulent websites.
- Do not reply to the sender. It’d be best to ignore any requests from the sender.
How to report phishing?
If you receive a phishing email or text message, report it immediately.
The information gathered from your report can heavily assist in the fight against scammers.
Step 1. If you got a phishing email, forward it to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at [email protected]. If you got a phishing text message, forward it to SPAM (7726).
Step 2. Report the phishing attack to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.