Phishing is one of the most common forms of online scams for a reason. Simply put, it doesn’t take a genius to perform one. There is little to no special tech skills involved and all the “hacker” has to do is craft a nice-to-read message and send it to as many emails or phone numbers as possible.
Phishing involves a malicious individual (or an organization) pretending to be someone you know or someone you do business with, in the effort of stealing information from you or hacking your device. Typically phishing scams include emails and text messages with links that, once clicked, can give a hacker access to your device.
Also, there are scam calls in which the caller pretends to be a trusted source and then tries to convince you to provide them information about you — such as your identity or credit card information — to steal from you.
In this article, we’ll show you 5 ways how to avoid phishing scams:
1. Don’t open texts and emails from sources you don’t know
This is the very basic security advice and common sense, which unfortunately isn’t always the common practice.
The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) recommends that, when you receive a message from a new phone number or email address – you should ask yourself this question: “Do I have an account with the company or know the person that contacted me?”
If the answer is “no,” feel free to ignore and/or delete the message, and you can even block them from ever contacting you again.
In the other case, if you know the company that’s contacting you, make sure to check out the email headers. Specifically, check the email address and whether it looks official and legit.
In all cases, never send sensitive data such as your credit card information via email or give it away over the phone. Simply put – banks don’t do that.
2. Don’t send money until confirming the requester’s identity
One of the most common phishing scams targets prospective homeowners in which the fake title company requests a wire money transfer for the downpayment of your (future) house. Once that money has been sent, there is little to no chance of getting it back.
This is why it is tremendously important to double-check the identity of someone before sending money to them.
Since buying homes involves a lot of money, you should by all means authenticate the person on the other end of the line. Call them and even meet with them in person if that’s an option.
Also, explore the use of escrow services that offer protections for big purchases.
3. Don’t give away your personal information
You don’t have to make your personal information available to the general public. Heck, you don’t need to have it on the Internet in the first place.
Collecting personal information from the Internet is what gives fuel to all the scammers out there. And depending on the amount of data they can find, they can even make for more elaborate scams, claiming to know you from your previous work or school, or using some other information they can find online.
You don’t have to help them “do their thing” so easily. You’re smarter than that so go easy on adding your personal information on various services throughout the Internet.
4. Use an antivirus and a VPN
These two pieces of software are a must these days though Mac users tend to disagree when it comes to antivirus — they say they don’t need it.
If you’re on a PC, you must use an antivirus and have it up to date at all times. This means that you will have the latest virus definitions to protect you against the newest threats.
As for the VPN, it will let you be more anonymous online so that scammers are having hard(er) time tracking you down. You get to choose your virtual location and it will be that location which they will see — rather than your real location.
A VPN will also protect you when connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots, by encrypting all your traffic. This will then make it impossible for anyone to perform the so-called “man in the middle” attack. Plus, you’ll get to access even parts of the Internet that could otherwise be outside of your reach, which is especially important in high-censorship countries.
5. Include yourself to the national Do Not Call register
Last but not the least, if the “Do Not Call” register is available in your country — it is available in the US, for instance — make sure to add your phone number(s) to it. Once you’re registered with this service, telemarketers are no longer allowed to call you for marketing purposes.
This may not stop phishing calls but will open up an avenue for you to sue individuals and businesses that keep calling you even after you have added yourself to the “Do Not Call” register. Also, now that you know that you are on that list, you also know that legitimate businesses are not calling you — and you should treat all marketing calls as scams.
There you have it. We are hoping that following the few rules from this article will keep you protected from phishing scams. Cause the number of these is rising all the time…