What Are Phishing Scams and How to Avoid Them

Phishing scam

Phishing scams are some of the most popular types of threats you can come across while browsing online these days. They are so common for one main reason – people still fall prey to these malicious attacks. Therefore, cybercriminals constantly find new ways to carry out these types of scams to make profits. Learn what phishing scams are, how to spot, and avoid them.

What Are Phishing Scams?

In short, phishing is a practice aimed at illegally getting hold of a person’s sensitive information such as their name, address, bank account details, social security number, etc. Phishing scams are different strategies cybercriminals use to gain access to this information, be it by email, phone, phishing websites, fake ads, or other stratagems.

Once hackers or scammers get the information they want, they can use it for different unlawful purposes such as accessing bank accounts, impersonating people or companies, opening accounts in someone else’s name, or claiming the social benefits of other people.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, these scams are extremely prolific and successful. Thousands of these attacks are being carried out daily. In the course of a year, people lose more than $55 million to phishing scams.

How to Spot Phishing Scams

The best way to understand what these fraudulent attempts look like in order to avoid them is to get a few examples. Usually, phishing scams are targeting people by email, phone, or text messages. Scammers try to establish a connection with you and promise you something in order to convince you to hand them your personal information. That something is usually a product you can get for free or a discount offer.

The messages scammers sent often look professional and mimic the way a real company would communicate with its customers. However, just because an email has a logo, a name, and the picture of a company representative, it doesn’t mean it’s legit.

Tens of thousands of phishing emails and messages are reported to the authorities each year and their diversity makes it hard to categorize them. Many come from online stores, some of which are famous platforms impersonated by hackers (e.g. Amazon). Others are linked to phishing websites that don’t really sell anything. In other cases, scammers use advertising emails that are apparently sent by different service providers, online apps, or even fake messages that impersonate state agencies.

To be able to tell these emails and messages apart from real ones, here are a few common phishing scams scenarios and red flags to watch out for:

– the offer you receive seems too good to be true
– you are approached by a company you’ve never heard of and you don’t remember having subscribed to their newsletter
– you’re getting coupons, free products, or discounts from a company you’ve never bought anything from
– someone who claims they represent a state institution notifies you that you’re eligible for financial governmental aid or for a tax refund
– you receive messages that urge you to download an attachment or click a link
– an online store or service provider notifies you there are some problems with your payment information
– you are notified that one of your accounts has been subject to suspicious activity and unauthorized log-in attempts
– you are required to confirm your personal information for a website or app

How to Avoid Phishing Scams

Preventing phishing scams comes down to applying a few safety measures to protect your PC and phone against phishing attempts since these are the channels cybercriminals use to obtain information.

Here are the most important tips and technologies you can rely on:

– use  reputable antivirus software with included anti-phishing features, you can install it both on your PC and phone or tablet to safeguard all the devices that store your sensitive information
– choose an antivirus that automatically updates your subscription so you can stay safe at all times
– avoid replying to emails from unknown companies that require you to provide your personal details in exchange for outstanding discounts or giveaways
– always use two-factor authentication methods for online payments or when logging into accounts that are linked to your credit or debit cards

Finally, to make sure you’re not among the thousands of people who fall victims to phishing scams each year, be cautious at all times while browsing online and think twice before you click on a link or submit your personal details on a website.

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