Phishing (pronounced fishing) is an attack that attempts to steal your money, or your identity by getting you to reveal personal information. These emails are often in pursuit of information like your credit card numbers, bank information, and passwords. Cybercriminals typically pretend to be reputable companies or people you trust to get you to share that information. They may also get you to hit reply or click a link to a site that they then use to steal or sell your data. Everyone’s gotten their share of phishing emails, you know the ones, that one purporting to be from the American Embassy or something alerting you that you’ve won that green card or some other lottery.
Phishing is a very popular form of cybercrime because of how effective it is. 23% of all people who receive these emails open them and 11% of them open attachments. Here are some tips to spot them and keep you and your stuff safe.
Tips to spot phishing emails
Urgent call to action
Be very suspicious of emails that require you to click the link now or open an attachment immediately. Creating a false sense of urgency is a common trick whether you’re being scammed online or in person.
You need to be careful when you get an email from someone you don’t recognize. Especially if it requires you to click or open something, take a moment to examine it extra carefully.
Be sceptical about branded emails
Phishing emails often rely on looking like they are from brands you trust, like your bank and your cellphone provider or some utility company you regularly make payments to. If you receive an email from a recognized brand, be sceptical if it asks you to click a link and provide any personal information or passwords. Check the domain on the sender’s email and confirm that it matches that of the entity you’re dealing with. A cool trick is to roll your mouse over the email address and any links to make sure they match the text displayed.
Avoid oversharing on social media
Avoid sharing things like your location, where you work and even age. Oversharing can make you susceptible to scammers who latch on to some information to look more credible and get more from you.
Keep your software updated
Updating your operating system when prompted means you get updated software patches that can mitigate the consequences should you ever make a faux pas. Man is to error after all. Woman, not so much 😊
Beware of generic addresses
Be suspicious if you receive emails from generic addresses like customerservice@, help@, hr@, itsupport@, or payroll@. Don’t send them any personal information if they ask for it.
Mark suspicious emails
If you receive a phishing email report it to your email provider and then delete it.
Install anti-phishing software
If you run a business, train your employees about phishing emails and how to respond when they get them including reporting to IT. Then try and put a stop to them altogether by installing anti-phishing software. This is a great way to get extra protection and offers more protection capabilities than your email provider does.
In general refrain from clicking links and downloading attachments from people who are not known to you. You have not won anything and likely won’t. And check the person’s email before replying even if it means calling them to confirm.
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