Phishing scams are increasingly becoming one of the most common types of cyber-attacks today. According to the latest statistics, phishing accounts for over 80% of all cyber-attacks globally, making it the number one threat to cybersecurity. It's therefore essential to know what phishing is and how you can avoid it. In this article, we'll explore some actionable tips to help you prevent phishing scams and safeguard your personal and financial information online.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is a sophisticated cyber-attack that thieves use to steal personal and sensitive information from unsuspecting victims. Typically, a phishing scammer will send an email that looks similar to one from a legitimate business, social media, or financial institution to trick you into providing personal and confidential information. In most cases, the email will contain links that redirect you to a fake website that looks genuine but is, in reality, a trap designed to steal your credentials or financial information.
Phishing can take many forms, including text messages or phone calls. The aim of the phisher is to get you to disclose sensitive information or download malware onto your device, which they can then use to access your financial accounts or personal data.
How to Avoid Phishing Scams
With the rise of phishing scams, it's important to stay vigilant and take preventive measures to keep your information safe. Here are some actionable tips to help you avoid falling victim to phishing scams.
1. Double-check the Sender’s email address
One of the easiest ways to spot phishing emails is to check the address of the sender. Sometimes, these scammers will use a slight variation of the real email domain to trick you into thinking that it's legitimate. For instance, instead of using "@paypal.com," they might use "@paypaI.com," which looks similar at first glance.
Therefore, be vigilant about checking the spelling and format of the sender's email address. If you spot something strange, like a typo or strange characters, it's probably a fake email. Try to hover over the sender's email address to confirm the domain name, as some phishing emails may use a legitimate business name, such as "firstname.lastname@example.org." In such a case, it's best to delete the email or report it to the relevant authorities.
2. Check the content of the email
Phishing emails are usually designed to create a sense of urgency and induce panic or fear. They may threaten to freeze your account, warn you of a security breach, or offer a prize or reward. Any email that uses such language should be an immediate red flag. Additionally, phishing emails generally contain misspellings or grammatical errors, another easy-to-spot sign
If you receive an email that seems suspicious, avoid clicking on any links or downloading attachments. Instead, try contacting the institution directly through their customer service number that you can find on their official website. Alternatively, check your account for any suspicious activities and change your passwords.
3. Be cautious of links
Phishing scammers often use hyperlinks in emails to lead you to fake websites they create to steal your information. Always hover your cursor over the link to check where it leads before clicking it. If the link directs you to a suspicious-looking or unfamiliar website, it's best to avoid clicking it.
Additionally, you should avoid opening links from any suspicious or unsolicited emails. Instead, manually enter the URL of the website you want to visit. Better still, use a secure browser extension or antivirus software that provides anti-phishing protection to block malicious websites automatically.
4. Do Not Share Sensitive Information Online
Never share any sensitive personal information or financial details online unless you're confident that the website or person requesting it is legitimate. Remember, your bank or any other legitimate institution will never ask you to disclose passwords or PINs, social security numbers, or any other confidential information via email.
If you receive such unsolicited emails, it's likely a phishing attempt, and you should avoid responding to them. Instead, contact the relevant institution through their customer service number and double-check if the request is legitimate.
5. Keep Your Software & Antivirus Up-to-date
Installing antivirus software on your device is an excellent way to protect yourself against phishing scams. Antivirus software scans your email and can identify and block unsafe links and malware-infected attachments.
It's also essential to frequently update your devices' operating systems, web browsers, and antivirus software. Updates often contain critical security patches that fix vulnerabilities and prevent cyber-attacks. Regular updates ensure that your devices are adequately protected against the latest types of phishing attacks.
Phishing attacks can be devastating, leading to lost funds, identity theft, and other serious issues. However, you can avoid these scams by being vigilant and alert to suspicious emails or unsolicited phone calls. Always double-check the sender's email address, avoid clicking on suspicious links, avoid sharing confidential details online, and keep your devices' software and antivirus up-to-date. By following these tips, you'll protect your personal and financial information from phishing scams effectively.