It’s Cyber Security Awareness Month, so that means it’s time to make sure you have some systems in place that protect your business every month and day to come!
Phishing scams are a very common way for criminals to get sensitive, personal information from you. Unfortunately, these kinds of scams are only getting harder and harder to detect, so for this Cyber Security Awareness Month, we wanted to share some tips for identifying phishing scams. Read on to find out how you can protect yourself from these harmful scams.
What Is Phishing?
If you’re not familiar with the term “phishing,” it’s a type of scam where someone contacts you under the guise of a business or person that you are likely to recognize as legitimate. For example, if you’ve ever gotten a text or email from someone claiming to be from Netflix about an outstanding fee when you don’t even have Netflix, it’s likely to be a phishing scam. However, not every phishing email, text, or phone call is going to be so easy to identify and dismiss. These criminals are clever, and the internet is a resource they take full advantage of to get your information.
Here are a few telltale signs that you can look for next time you suspect that you might be looking at a phishing scam:
Checking The Sender
Whether you’re getting an email, a phone call, or a text, there are many ways that you can check that the sender is who they say they are.
For an email, you can look at the email address of the sender and the header of the email. Most of the time, a legitimate company will have its business name in the email address. It won’t be a public domain email such as “@gmail.com, @aol.com, @yahoo.com, etc.” An actual business email will also generally have a header with a logo and branding. However, this can be easy to forget, so your best bet is to check for any issues and discrepancies between the email address and the header.
If you receive a phone call, the first thing you should do is never answer a phone number that you don’t recognize. Instead, listen to the voicemail and double-check the phone number in an internet search to see if it matches the person or business they claim to be. However, if you decide to answer, ask the caller what their name is and their job title and company they work for. Then, without sharing any more information, hang up the phone and look up the company. Now, you can call that company and confirm whether the number matches and if they have an employee in that position with the name you were told.
When it comes to texts, identifying a phishing scam is a blend of how you check phone calls and emails. However, it’s not recommended to reply to any texts from a person you don’t know. Instead, all you need to do is look at the number or email that is texting you, and a quick internet search can tell you if it matches the business or person it’s claiming to be.
Checking The Content
Most of the time, phishing scams use urgent language about you owing money and give you a deadline/penalty to scare you.
They will usually also provide you with a link that you’re supposed to click to pay a balance or fee. However, a legitimate company link is going to match the name of the business. This is a great way to spot a phishing scam. If the link provided is a bunch of random numbers and letters, it’s a scam. If a legitimate business ever actually provides you with a link, the URL will generally have the company name in it. A real business will never threaten you or encourage you to share personal information via text, email, or phone call. Think about any bills you pay online. It’s always through a secure website, right? That doesn’t change if your payment is “supposedly” late.
Another way to spot a phishing scam is when there are typos or strange language used in the content. For example, the greeting may say something like, “Hi Dear” or even just the first part of your email address. You might also notice that the wording seems incorrect or written by someone unfamiliar with the language they’re writing in. These are all red flags that you’re looking at a phishing scam.
Impersonating Loved Ones
Another phishing scam can be someone pretending to be someone you care about that needs money. Unless your loved one calls you from their actual number, and you know their voice, be wary of this. A phishing scam of this nature will always have an excuse for why you won’t be able to confirm their identity. For example, if they say they’re using someone else’s phone, it can’t hurt for you to call their actual number to confirm. Just this simple act can shut down this kind of phishing scam fast. You can also ask them to send a picture of themselves next to a clock in a public place, do a video call, or ask a question only your real loved one would know the answer to.
As you can see, identifying phishing scams is easy with just a little bit of observation and research. We hope these tips will help you be able to protect yourself from phishing scams.