According to IBM’s 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report, organizations lost an average of $4.65 million US dollars to phishing attacks. This is a highly concerning issue because emails are the main form of professional communication between companies or institutions nowadays. However, with so many phishing emails being sent out, posing as renowned companies, confidential company data or funds are bound to get stolen. So, what is phishing?
Phishing is a type of cybercrime that aims to trick you into giving away your personal and sensitive information. After gaining this information, scammers can commit identity theft, blackmail you, or steal your money using your bank account credentials. The main sources of communication used by scammers are emails or text messages posing as reputable companies and phone calls impersonating company employees. Scammers may convince you to give them as much information as possible via phone calls or use fraudulent website links in emails and text messages to steal your data.
5 Ways To Identify Phishing Scams:
- Unsolicited Messages From Unknown Senders
It could be a phishing attempt if you received an email from someone not on your contact list or subscription list. Email platforms like Outlook identify emails from new senders you never received an email from before; hence, you should be cautious when opening it.
- Grammatical Errors
Companies or organizations have employees for sending emails to their clients or customers to maintain a professional image. Thus, if you notice any grammatical or spelling errors in the email’s body, it could be a phishing email. These errors may be the result of poor translation from a foreign language. But sometimes, these tactics are used to avoid spam filters in email inboxes that filter out phishing emails.
- Generic Greetings
Emails sent by your subscription list or institutions like your university or bank would address you by your first or last name to make the email more personalized. It’s a common practice nowadays. But if you receive a generic greeting like ‘Dear Sir/Madam,’ it could be a scam. It could also imply that the same email was sent to other users to lure them into giving their information.
- Incorrect Email Domains
Phishing emails might be impersonating companies such as Microsoft or your bank; hence the domain name should have Microsoft or the bank’s name. You should check the domain name used to send you the email; if it’s from a Gmail account, it could be a scammer. The domain name might also have spelling errors, which can help you identify it as a phishing email.
- Suspicious Links
Phishing emails and messages contain links leading to fake websites. You should hover over the link to check whether it takes you to the correct webpage or redirects you to a phony website. But the safer choice would be to avoid opening links and deleting the email.
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How to avoid phishing scams:
- Stay up to date about phishing techniques
Scammers have employed new phishing methods; hence, staying up to date with their tactics to steal our personal information is important. Without the knowledge of those techniques, it is very easy to fall victim to phishing scams in our daily lives. You can visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website to learn more about phishing or the recent trends in phishing scams.
- Think before clicking
You should avoid opening phishing emails if you have identified them and avoid clicking on any links in the message. Clicking on links in phishing emails is unsafe because they direct you to fake websites to steal your data. Hence, always rationally think before clicking on any such links.
- Keep your browser up to date.
Browsers also require updates to maintain the security of your data. You should not ignore any pending updates and immediately download and install them. It only takes a few minutes which is useful in the long run for protection against fake websites and hackers.
- Check the security of websites.
Authentic or verified websites have a lock sign in the URL and ‘https://’ written before the ‘www.’ If the website is suspicious and possibly a fake website, it will not have a lock sign and only have ‘http://’ in the URL. The missing ‘s’ indicates the website is not secure. Therefore, before giving any information on websites, check for these signs. Websites also have security certificates that you can check to verify the website’s authenticity.
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