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Despite numerous warnings, phishing scams are seemingly more popular than ever. A phishing scam is a technique used by criminals to fool people into thinking something is wrong with their personal accounts, such as banking, computer, and the like. As a result, they manage to get personal information such as social security numbers, bank account and credit card information, or other personal info that may take hundreds, if not thousands of dollars from the victim.
Phishing scams work particularly well on the elderly, who are the most commons victims of such a crime. Protecting yourself starts with identifying the basic methods that criminals use to pull personal information from you. Plus, setting up basic safeguards in case you are caught unaware, so at least the loss is minimised.
Never Open Links, Emails, or Download Files Unless It’s from a Trusted Source
This advice seems easier than it really is because many emails in particular come from sources that mimic the names of real companies. For example, if you use PayPal, you may receive an email from what appears to be part of the company warning you about your account. As legit as it may seem, always check independently with PayPal or any company that seemingly sends you a warning or alert about any account.
The same is true for opening links. A common phishing tactic is to send a shortened link that seemingly is from a legit company. But instead it directs you to their fake site. A quick way to check is to hover your mouse over the link to reveal if the source is the same as the company.
Fake Microsoft Calls
This is a popular phishing scam that is used primarily on the elderly, but anyone can be a victim. A call from a supposed technician or representative of Microsoft informs the victim that their computer has a virus. They promise to take care of the issue if they can get the passwords and other important info to get inside their computer.
The result is that valuable information, usually access to bank accounts and credit cards, are pulled when the victim allows the hacker to gain access to their computer. This type of attach works particularly well on those who are not that familiar with how Microsoft works. The defense is rather simple, Microsoft does not call anyone about virus attacks. Always check with Microsoft independently when receiving a call.
Avoid “Act Now” Warnings
There are times when a legitimate company will ask you to change your password, such as in 2014 when eBay experienced a data breach. However, most warnings that tell you to do something “right now” are usually scammers trying to get you to reveal your personal information. You may get a notice about a fine, or that your account is being threatened or closed.
No matter how legitimate it seems to be, always check independently by opening up another browser and going to the site yourself. Almost all the time, you’ll see no such warning on the company site.
Avoiding phishing scams is not easy, but if you use some common sense and check out the information independently, you just might avoid being scammed.