Unmasking Phishing: How to Recognize and Protect Yourself from Cyber Scams

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Phishing is the most common form of cybercrime, and it often results in the loss of money and or credentials, which can result in a serious breach that causes even more problems. Despite these facts, many people aren’t sure what it is or how to protect themselves. If this sounds like you, keep reading!

What is Phishing?

Phishing attacks involve tricking individuals into providing sensitive information that can include usernames, passwords, and credit card details by pretending to be a trustworthy entity, like a bank or a utility company. Phishing attacks are also popular on job sites, where an attacker will pretend to be an employer and trick someone looking for a job into providing sensitive information, which can lead to a loss of money and your identity.

Tips for Spotting Phishing Attacks

  • Verify that the sender’s email address is legitimate. Phishing emails often come from addresses that look similar to but are not the same as a legitimate company’s email address. For example, “support@amaz0n.com” instead of “support@amazon.com.”
  • Be cautious about emails that use generic greetings such as “Dear Customer” or “Dear User.” Real companies have your name in their database and will use it in the email.
  • Many phishing emails contain grammatical errors, awkward phrasing, and spelling mistakes. Legitimate companies hire people to write and proofread everything that goes out.
  • Hover over any links in the email without clicking to see the actual URL at the bottom of your screen. If it doesn’t match the company’s website or looks suspicious, treat the email with extreme caution.
  • Phishing emails often try to create a sense of urgency or fear to prompt immediate action to get you to enter your details before you have a chance to think about what they are saying.
  • Legitimate companies will never ask you to send sensitive information like passwords, credit card numbers, or Social Security numbers through email. 
  • Never open any attachments with emails you don’t recognize, as they can contain malware that infects your computer.
  • If the email you receive sounds suspicious, try contacting the company directly to verify that they sent it.
  • No legitimate company will ask you to purchase gift cards or credit cards.
  • If something feels off about an email, trust your instincts. It’s better to be cautious and verify the email’s legitimacy than to fall victim to a phishing attack.

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