Phishing scams are everywhere these days, and especially in the run up to the Holiday season, its important to be extra vigilant. Falling for a phishing scam can be disastrous for your wallet, your computer, and can compromise your sensitive personal information. For scammers, phishing scams are lucrative, and even though much progress has been made in shutting down the worst offenders, many others persist and have gotten more creative. That’s why we're sharing some concrete preventative measures you can take to make sure you don't fall victim this holiday season.
First, a little background.
Phishing refers to a deliberate attempt by a scammer to pass off a fake and malicious communication (most commonly an email) as a real one from a trusted source. Phishing emails do harm primarily by tricking an unsuspecting recipient into a) downloading a virus or malware; or b) unwittingly sharing their personal information or login credentials. In fact, according to Verizon's 2017 Data Breach Investigation Report, over two-thirds of all malware is installed via fraudulent email attachments.
💡Tip: Our Virtual Support Specialists are always on the lookout for the latest scams, viruses and malware can help you determine the veracity and validity of any suspect email, webpage or application. It's actually one of our most popular functions. Click here to learn more about our Virtual Support Services and recieve a free two-week trial.
Here are some things you can do to keep you and your loved ones protected this holiday season.
1. Beware of bogus email domain names
One way to spot a fraudulent email is by carefully examining the email domain of the sender (the email 'domain' is the name that comes after the '@' symbol) . Make sure the domain used in the suspected email is one that makes sense. For example, emails from us will always be addressed from 'email@example.com'
Emails from firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com are fraudulent and should never be opened.
2. Watch for poor spelling and grammar
Typically, phishing emails usually grammatical errors and misspelled words. Legitimate emails from reputable businesses usually go through many revisions to ensure they are free of errors, but scammers rarely perform similar diligence. If something doesn’t sound right, view it with caution.
3. Scammers won't use your name
When a company you do business with sends you an email about your account, it will most likely use your first name as part of the salutation. Scammers, however, tend to use generic salutations and hope you don't notice. For example:
Dear Janet, (credible email)
Dear valued account holder, (phishing email)
4. Scammers will usually request personal information
Be very wary of emails requesting you to enter or send personal information to a third party site, especially if they claim 'Your personal information is compromised.' No legitimate company will EVER ask you to respond to an email with a login email, password or pin. If you find yourself being asked to provide this kind of information, don't!
5. The links won't match
Almost always, phishing emails will prompt you to click a link which will take you to an external site (or, in the worst cases, trigger a malicious download). One way to avoid this is to mouse over suspicious links and ensure that the link in the body of the email matches the link destination in the popup. If the link address in the popup doesn't seem legitimate (has a random string of letters or doesn't contain the business name), don't open it!
Its important to not look for these clues in isolation as it likely more than one of these issues will likely turn up within any single phishing attempt. Use your intuition and if you have questions or concerns, never hesitate to reach out to the company itself to verify the email was sent in good faith.
As always: when in doubt, throw it out! Or better yet, give us a call. We'd be happy to help.
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