phishing

Phishing 101: Recognising and Avoiding Common Traps

Phishing scams are getting sneakier by the day. Don’t take the bait on these digital traps! Here’s a handy guide on how to spot and stop phishing attempts in their tracks.


What is Phishing?

Phishing is a cyber-attack where scammers use emails, texts, calls, or websites pretending to be trustworthy sources to hook you into giving out private information. The phishers then use passwords, bank details, or personal data stolen through these scams to access accounts, steal identities, or commit financial fraud.

Phishing

Common Phishing Tactics

Emails

One of the most common phishing techniques is via email. Phishing emails mimic legitimate businesses you deal with like your bank, social media sites, online stores, etc. They’ll ask you to click shady links to “confirm your account” or “access a receipt” so you’ll enter your login credentials on their fake site.

Websites

Phishing websites are designed to look exactly like real sites to trick victims into entering sensitive info. They often use URLs that are misspelt or slightly altered.

Phone Calls

Scammers use vishing (voice phishing) calls posing as tech support, customer service, or a government agency to get private details from you. They may say you owe money or need to install software.

Text Messages

Smishing, or phishing through SMS, uses texts impersonating shipping companies, banks, or businesses asking you to click a link to resolve an account issue, track a package, or review a charge.

How to Identify Phishing Red Flags

With some vigilance, you can recognise these sneaky phishing attempts:

  • Generic greetings like “Dear user” instead of your name
  • Unusual requests for personal information
  • Suspicious sender addresses/URLs that aren’t official
  • Spelling and grammar mistakes
  • Threats to suspend your account if you don’t act
  • Links or attachments from unfamiliar sources
  • Requests for sensitive data like passwords or SSN

If something seems off, use caution before clicking links in messages or providing any info.

Tips to Protect Yourself from Phishing Scams

Practise cyber vigilance with these tips to avoid phishing traps:

Verify Senders

Don’t trust display names. Double-check that emails and texts come from official business channels.

Inspect URLs

Compare site URLs to real deals and look for misspellings or odd extensions before entering info.

Exercise Caution with Links

Go directly to sites through your browser, not via links which could lead to sophisticated fakes.

Beware of Spoofs

Call or email a company through official channels to confirm suspicious communications.

Avoid Public WiFi for Finance

Open networks make it easier for phishers to intercept data. Don’t access finance accounts on public WiFi.

Keep Devices Up-to-Date

Regularly update security software and patches to address vulnerabilities phishers could exploit.

Make Strong Passwords

Use long, unique phrases for each account to avoid stolen credentials.

Turn on Two-Factor Authentication

Add an extra login step for key accounts via a code texted or generated through an app.

What to Do if You Get Phished

If you share information through a phishing scam, act fast:

  • Contact affected companies/banks to lock accounts and report fraud.
  • Reset all account passwords, starting with email, finance, and social media.
  • Review recent activity for unauthorised charges, password resets, etc, and report them.
  • Run antivirus scans and delete suspicious programs.
  • Consider credit freezes and fraud alerts if identity theft is suspected.

Phishing may be on the rise, but staying vigilant about scams, verifying senders, avoiding shady links, and using strong credentials can help you steer clear of the crooks. Share these phishing defence tips with friends and family to keep everyone covering their digital tracks!


Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common tricks phishers use?

Phishers may spoof trusted business emails or texts, create fake customer support calls, mimic websites, and make urgent threats to get your information.

What should I do if I click a suspicious link?

If you click a shady link, close it immediately. Run antivirus scans to check for malware. If you entered information, report it to affected companies.

How can I identify official websites?

Legitimate sites should have “https” in the URL, a lock icon, and match the real site address exactly – watch for subtle changes in spelling or domain.

What tips can you share for creating stronger passwords?

Use longer passwords with a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid personal info or common words. Use a unique password for every account.

How does two-factor authentication help prevent phishing?

Two-factor requires you to enter a secondary one-time code and your password when logging in. So even if phishers get your password, they can’t access the account.

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