This article aims to inform readers about phishing schemes and how they can recognize them, in order to protect themselves and their computers.
What is phishing?
A phishing scheme is when scammers use various deceptive tactics to obtain personal or sensitive information from users. This information can then be used to harm the affected users and benefit the criminals.
Very common examples of phishing schemes include spam emails that pretend to be sent from legitimate companies or organizations. For instance, this could be an email posing to be from your bank. And the text of the email could be trying to get you to follow a link and “update” your personal details or online banking credentials. Alternatively, the scammers behind it could ask you to download a file they claim to be a bank statement or similar document.
Other no less common phishing schemes can revolve around trying to get you to make a payment. Or they might say that there’s been a problem with a payment that you’ve already made (say on an popular ecommerce platform) and you have to do it again.
Phishing schemes can also say that you are eligible for a refund of some sort, and all you need to do is fill in your personal and/or banking details.
What to watch out for
If you happen to receive an email similar to the ones described above, don’t hurry to take the action required in the message. Ask yourself one simple question first: do you have an account with the company that contacted you? (Alternatively, if the message was sent from a private person, ask yourself whether you know them.)
If you do not in fact have an account with said company, then it’s more than likely you’re dealing with scammers on the other side of the computer screen. In this case you ought to have a closer look at the details of the received email and search for more telltale signs of a scam. And if you discover them, you can then feel free to report the email and delete it.
If, however, you do indeed happen to have an account with the company you allegedly received correspondence from, you should contact the company yourself. But be sure to use a phone or email address that you obtained from the company’s website, and not reply to the email in question. That way you can establish whether or not the email was genuine.
How you can protect yourself
Of course, a large part of remaining safe from online scammers has to do with applying your common sense. It should go without saying that users ought to approach any content they come across on the web critically. Don’t go about randomly clicking on spam and online ads, and you should certainly refrain from visiting potentially dangerous websites and downloading anything from them. But here are a few solid tips that you can apply already in order to increase your system’s safety.
- Use security software. Be sure to have a reliable antivirus program running on your PC at all times, and make sure that it is always updated, too.
- Keep backups of your data. With threats like ransomware becoming increasingly common, it’s a good idea to store copies of your valuable data on a separate hard drive or a cloud.
- Set multi-factor authentication. Multifactor authentication is an option you can select in almost all types of accounts these days. It adds an extra layer of security, making it more difficult for anyone to hack you, even if they have your login credentials.
- Set smartphone to update automatically. Automatic software updates can prove to be very helpful in shielding your device from possible threats.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comment section below if you’ve encountered any phishing schemes lately and what you did (could’ve done) to protect yourself from them.