Phishing Scams: How to Recognize and Protect Yourself
Phishing scams have reached an unprecedented level, with over one million total attacks reported in the first quarter of 2022, according to the Anti-Phishing Working Group. The number of attempts has tripled since early 2020. With the increasing number of attacks, it is crucial to understand how to recognize and protect yourself from these scams.
Most Prevalent Types of Phishing Scams
Phishing refers to scams that steal personal information by posing as a trusted third party. Scammers have adapted to various communication channels, making it difficult to spot these scams. The most common types of phishing scams include:
- Email scams: The most common type of phishing attack uses emails that appear identical to official messages. Beware of email addresses that are not from the business domain and avoid clicking on links in emails.
- Voice phishing (vishing): Scammers use phone calls to deceive victims, often claiming to have urgent offers or warnings. Never answer calls from unknown numbers and be cautious of returning calls from unfamiliar numbers.
- Phishing websites: Fraudulent websites that mimic official sites are a common destination for phishing scams. Always check the URL of a website and avoid trusting an HTTPS connection blindly.
- SMS text message scams (smishing): Scammers send text messages with links or numbers to trick victims into providing personal information. Be cautious of texts from unknown numbers and avoid replying to scam messages.
- Social media phishing: Scammers use fake accounts or compromised accounts to reach out to victims, often posing as friends or official support accounts. Be wary of anyone asking for personal information or verification codes.
- Man-in-the-middle attack: This type of phishing scam occurs when the attacker intercepts your data when you are on the same Wi-Fi network. Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks and consider using a VPN for added security.
How to Prevent Phishing
While each type of phishing attack may require different methods to detect, there are common warning signs to watch out for:
- Unfamiliar senders: Be skeptical of emails, texts, or calls from unknown individuals.
- Poor spelling or grammar: Scammers often make small errors and use poor English.
- Urgency and threats: Scammers create a sense of urgency or use intimidation tactics to pressure victims into taking immediate action.
- Unusual payment methods: Phishing scams may require payment through unconventional methods like gift cards or cryptocurrency.
If you become a victim of a phishing scam, it is important to take immediate action to minimize the potential damage and report the incident to the proper authorities.