Phishing Scams on the Rise – How to Recognize and Avoid Them
Scammers love events like Amazon Prime Day, because they know consumers will be focused on getting good deals quickly, and may be more tempted to click on links in their texts or emails if they think a potential deal is running on limited time. During these online events, it is more important than ever for consumers to heighten their awareness of the tactics phishing scammers may use to get their hands on your data.
Recognizing a Phishing Scam
Scammers use emails and text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information. By stealing one password, account number, or social security number, they can gain access to your email, bank, or other accounts. While scammers are always updating their tactics, there are still ways to recognize a phishing scam.
- Phishing Emails and Texts Look Like They are From a Company You Know and Trust
Phishing emails will claim to be from your bank, a credit card company, a social media site, an online payment service such as Venmo or PayPal, or an online store such as Amazon. They will use the logos and claim to be representing a company you deal with.
- Phishing Messages Will Try to Make You Worry and Trick You into Clicking a Link or Opening an Attachment
The messages won’t be benign. Often, you will get a text from a company you use and trust claiming that they’ve noticed suspicious activity or log-in attempts. They may claim there was a problem with your payment and you need to update a card or verify your personal information, will send an “invoice”, offer a coupon, or even claim to be from the government. They may tell you your account has been suspended due to a billing problem. Consumers see a text that claims that their account has been compromised, and are much more likely to click on the provided link to remedy the situation right away, thinking that they are being proactive in protecting their data, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
What to Do if You Suspect a Phishing Attack
If you get an email or text with an attachment or a link, before you click, even if you are concerned, look for signs of a phishing scam. Do you know the person who contacted you? Have they contacted you by email or text before, and if so, is it coming from the exact contact? Do you even have an account with the company? If you think this could be a scam, delete the message without opening the attachment or clicking the link, and report the message.
If you are worried it may not be a scam, you still should not click the link. Open a new browser window or the application itself, type in the correct web address of the company, and contact them through their official site. Check your account, update your security if necessary, and confirm that you are in good standing. If there is a problem, you will be able to find and remedy it from the site without needing to go through any links from your texts or emails.
It’s important to be cautious with your personal information, even with companies you regularly do business with. Pay attention to details in the messaging, and when in doubt, contact the company directly.
Always Consider Best Practices for Security
The best defense you have against phishing scammers is to make sure you are always following best practices for security.
- Keep your security software up to date.
- Keep your cell phone software up to date.
- Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible.
- Backup your data.
Never give out your personal or financial information without doing a little research on the issue first. If you suspect an email isn’t legit, contact the company and ask them about the correspondence you received to confirm if it is legit or a scam. If you think you’ve been fooled by a scam, run a scan, update your security software, and check out IdentityTheft.gov.
Scammers are always trying to prey on your weaknesses, and they know that consumers are likely to be distracted when they are on their phones and trying to multitask. Be aware, be smart, and keep your information protected. For more information about how to stay safe online, check out our AccuShred blog.