Phishing Scams: What They are and How to Avoid Them
A phishing scam is a type of online scam or cyber attack that targets users with emails, SMS messages, or other communication channels.
While phishing scams may seem easy to avoid for some people, that’s not always the case, especially since phishing scams may look more legit than you think.
In this guide, we’ll explore the different types of scams, as well as how to detect and avoid them.
Types of Phishing Scams
Now, let’s take a look at some of the most common phishing scams.
1- Email Phishing
Email phishing is a type of phishing that uses email clients to breach the victim’s sensitive information.
It doesn’t target a specific individual or company. Instead, the attacker sends as many emails as they can to random people. The attacker designs the email so that it looks professional, legit, and sent from a high-profile institution like a bank.
The email almost always includes an action item that creates a sense of urgency. For example, an attacker claiming that they’re the victim’s bank may scam the victim by telling them that their account will expire within 2 hours if they don’t submit their credit card information.
2- SMS Phishing (Smishing)
SMS phishing is similar to email phishing, but instead of using email as a method of communication, it uses SMS to deliver a bait message.
The message typically includes a link that asks for the person’s sensitive information. SMS phishing can be more effective than email phishing as it can be harder to identify fake links in an SMS message than in an email.
3- Voice Phishing (Vishing)
Phishing scammers use Voice over IP (VoIP) services to make automated phone calls to random people warning them of fraud. Then, they ask the person for sensitive information related to their bank account or cards.
Vishing exploits the lack of awareness of the public that they could get scammed over the phone.
4- Spear Phishing
Spear phishing is a type of phishing scam that targets a specific company or individual within a company.
In a typical spear phishing scam, the attacker researches a company’s hierarchy and learns about its project details and invoices. Then, the attacker sends an email that redirects a company official to a seemingly protected internal document that asks for login credentials.
5- Social Media Phishing
Social media phishing occurs through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
Social media phishing can be hard to detect for some people since the attacker often hacks the account of one of the victim’s friends, then sends them a message that contains a suspicious link that asks for personal or financial information.
Phishing attacks on social media may also occur through posts.
How to Identify and Avoid Phishing Scams
Learning how to recognize and protect yourself from phishing scams is essential to keep your sensitive information.
Recognizing Phishing Scams
The best way to identify phishing scams is to check if the message asks for sensitive information like your bank card details or login credentials.
The way the message looks isn’t enough to trust the sender. If it contains a link that prompts you to submit information, it’s most likely a scam.
Here are a few examples of how a phishing email may look like:
- We’re bank X and noticed that there’s suspicious activity on your card.
- We’re organization X and noticed that something is wrong with your account.
- You’ve become eligible for a refund/prize money. Click this link to claim it.
- Here’s your invoice for the latest payment.
It’s also worth noting that phishing messages are usually unexpected. But even if you’re expecting an invoice or something, double-checking that the sender is legit is still important.
Steps to Protect Yourself from Phishing Scams
To avoid phishing scams, follow these steps:
- Use antivirus software,
- Keep your computer and mobile phone updated to the latest OS release.
- Incorporate multi-factor authentication, which requires multiple login credentials to authorize users.
How to Report a Phishing Incident?
If you suspect that you received a phishing email, you can report the incident by forwarding the email to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at [email protected].
If it’s a text message, forward it to SPAM (7726). You can also report the phishing scam attempt to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
How to Respond if you Fall a Victim to a Phishing Scam?
If you’ve already got your information compromised through a phishing scam, visit IdentityTheft.gov and follow the steps to prevent further damage.
In case you downloaded a suspicious file, update your antivirus software and operating system version, then scan your computer and remove malicious files.
It’s also important that you report the incident to your bank and ask them to block all of your cards. If you submit sensitive information like a social security number, contact a credit bureau and inquire about fraud alerts.
Below is the contact information of the three major credit bureaus in the United States:
P.O. Box 1017
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 740250
Atlanta, GA 30374
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634
To recap, phishing can occur in many forms and through various channels, but it always involves submitting sensitive information.
Being vigilant against phishing scams is important to protect yourself from identity theft, financial losses, or legal issues.
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