How to Spot and Avoid Phishing Scams

October 13, 2023
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Phishing scams are on the rise and becoming increasingly sophisticated. As cybercriminals get better at impersonating companies and individuals, it’s more important than ever to know how to recognize these fraudulent messages and protect yourself online. In this post, we’ll break down some key tips to help you spot, report, and avoid falling victim to phishing attacks.

What is Phishing?

Phishing is a type of online scam where criminals pretend to be a trustworthy source in order to bait victims into sharing personal information. These scams usually take the form of fake emails, text messages, or phone calls that seem to come from a real company, like your bank.

The goal is to trick you into clicking malicious links, downloading malware, or providing sensitive data like credit card numbers, account passwords, or your Social Security number. With this information in hand, scammers can steal your money, make fraudulent purchases in your name, or commit identity theft.

Watch for Common Red Flags

While some phishing emails can look convincingly real, there are often some clear warning signs you can watch out for:

  • Generic greetings – Legitimate messages will address you directly, not use broad terms like “Dear customer.”
  • Spelling and grammar mistakes – Sloppy writing riddled with errors can signify a phishing attempt.
  • Suspicious links and attachments – Never click on random links or attachments you receive unexpectedly, especially if they create a sense of urgency.
  • Requests for information – No real company will ever email, text, or call you to ask for your password, Social Security number, or other sensitive details.
  • Threats – Phishing scams often threaten account suspension or other consequences if you don’t take immediate action.
  • Spoofing – Fake websites designed to mimic real sites are a phishing technique to steal login credentials. Always check that the URL is 100% accurate.

Verify before Taking Action

If you receive any suspicious messages that prompt you to take urgent action, verify before doing anything. Log into your account directly through your bank’s official app or website to check for notifications. Call customer service using the legitimate phone number on your account statements. Never act based solely on an unexpected email, text, call, or pop-up message.

Report Phishing Scams

Once you confirm an illegitimate phishing attempt, report it immediately to the company being impersonated so they can take action. You should also report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission to help warn other consumers. The quicker phishing emails and sites get shut down, the safer everyone’s information will be.

By learning to recognize the warning signs and taking steps to verify legitimacy before providing information or taking action, you can keep your data safe from phishing scams. Stay vigilant online and don’t hesitate to report anything suspicious.