More and more people are doing their banking, shopping, and other financial business online because of one reason: it’s convenient.
Unfortunately, with the convenience comes a decidedly higher risk of exposing your sensitive personal information to hackers, con artists, and scammers. Phishing, the practice of drawing out personal information through emails posing as official communication, has continued to increase — in spite of advancements in website security.
The most common phishing scam is an email appearing to be from your bank or credit card company, which requests a verification of your password or account information.
The link included in the email will take you to a website created to look like your bank’s, and when you enter your account information, you reveal it to the scammer.
Phishing scams may otherwise include a link that downloads hacking software known as malware, which secretly collects all your passwords, usernames, and other personal information as you use the internet. Many types of malware are designed to send out fake messages from your email account, in hopes of luring even more people into the scam.
Phishing is no longer limited to just your email account, either.
With the explosion of social media, phishing has found a whole new playground. Enticing links or private messages on your Facebook or Twitter accounts may be encouraging you to provide or unknowingly grant access to your personal information.
Learning to navigate potential phishing scams is important if you plan to continue banking and doing business online.
Here are three tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of one of these scams:
1. Always assume the source of your emails may not be genuine
Your bank has probably told you to disregard any email communication from them, since they will either call you directly or send a request in the mail if they need any information.
Even so, emails sent by phishers are designed to appear extremely official and trustworthy. If you’re not in the habit of receiving regular email communication from your financial accounts, don’t open or respond if you start getting them.
Immediately call your bank to verify the source. Since some of your personal contacts may fall prey to a phishing scam’s malware, don’t open suspicious emails or links from even your friends. It’s always safer to ask first.
2. Install and run antivirus software regularly
Antivirus software will help you prevent malicious programs from attacking your computer and accessing your personal information, as well as clean up the mess when it happens. Be sure not to just install it and forget about it; run regular updates so it’s ready to detect the newest versions.
3. React quickly if you’re victimized by a phishing scam
As soon as you suspect that someone has accessed your personal or financial information, immediately stop using the affected device and let your antivirus software scan and remove anything it finds.
As quickly as possible, and on a different device, change the passwords to your financial accounts and notify your bank or credit card company of the breach. In most cases, your company will be able to investigate unauthorized charges and compensate you for any losses. Be sure to also notify your friends and family that they may receive fake emails from you, so they can avoid falling into the same trap.
In spite of heightened security measures and regulations, maintaining personal and financial security on the internet is getting increasingly difficult. You’ll never be completely immune to threats, but if you practice caution and remember that the best scams are the most believable, you’ll go a long way in protecting yourself.
Have you fallen victim to a phishing scam before? What happened?