How to spot a phishing scam
Last updated: January 1
With almost everyone on email and social media these days, it's a good idea to know about the dangers of phishing scams.
Have you been getting an outrageous volume of emails in your inbox with mysterious links? Have you fallen victim to a phone scam by an "IT employee" trying to help "prevent a data breach" on your computer?
Whether or not you have encountered these situations yet, it's a good idea to learn how to spot a phishing scam. Here are a few tips to help you before it's too late.
1. Watch out for urgency
According to the FBI, scammers often pressure victims to respond quickly, before they have time to think. Urgent requests for information could come in the form of an email, text message or even a phone call. Any threat that your bank, email, credit card or other accounts could be closed if you don't respond is likely a scam, says the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC urges consumers to never allow remote access to a computer to a caller or give credit card details over the phone.
2. Take a close look at that email
Phishing emails often mimic a trusted source like a bank, credit card, favorite retailer or even your email provider. Always scrutinize the sender's email address. These emails may also be loaded with cryptic web links. Wired suggests hovering your cursor over the link to identify the actual link destination.
3. Never give out personal information
This should be a rule for email, text messaging, phone calls and social media platforms, even if you're connecting with a person you know or a trusted institution. According to the FTC, companies will never ask for sensitive information via email or text message.
4. Be on the lookout for bad grammar
USA Today says spelling and bad grammar is a telltale sign of phishy communication. Large companies and organizations generally don't allow a mass email to go out with a number of errors.
If you think you've been targeted by a scammer, there are a few things you can do. The FTC recommends forwarding any suspicious emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and to the company, bank or organization that the communication appeared to come from. If you spot a suspicious social media message appearing to come from your account, you should delete it immediately and change your passwords. You can also mark suspicious messages from friends as "spam."
Once you have secured your information online, then you can get back to surfing the Web and posting on social media more safely.