Our reliance on technology comes with an abundance of benefits, but it also comes with a bunch of new obstacles. One of those obstacles: email scams. How many times a week do you receive an email that looks or sounds questionable?
Email phishing scams are on the rise because scammers are using more elaborate tricks to make you vulnerable, and they often adapt their tactics. Your first line of defense against phishing emails is to know how to recognize them. Below are some tricks scammers use to deceive recipients into opening harmful email attachments or provide personal information. Learn what they are so that you can better protect yourself.
- Phishing emails may look like they are from a company or person you know and trust. If you receive an email from a colleague that contains a weird attachment or spelling and grammatical mistakes that you believe the sender wouldn't make, think twice about opening the attachment. Scams can also be disguised as emails from your bank, your cell phone provider, or a social networking site. These emails can be hard to spot. Take a close look at how they are laid out to notice whether there are spelling mistakes and if logos and imagery are used correctly.
- Phishing emails often tell a story to trick you into clicking an attachment or an external link. They might say that they've noticed suspicious activity on your account or claim that there was a payment problem. They might even outright ask you to confirm your personal information so that they can update their records! Other tricks are getting you to register for phony programs or offer you coupons for free stuff.
"Phishing emails often tell a story to trick you into clicking an attachment or an external link. They might say that they've noticed suspicious activity on your account or claim that there was a payment problem."
How to Protect Yourself from Phishing
The first layer of protection is your email spam filter. It works well to stop simple email scams from landing in your inbox. However, phishing emails come in all forms and levels of complexity. Scammers continually make advancements to get past email filters, so you should add extra layers of defense.
Install security software on your computer. Security software provides data and network security in a variety of forms, such as protection from viruses, malware, unauthorized users, and internet breaches. Some types of security software are anti-virus software, firewall software, network security software, Internet security software, malware/spamware removal software, and cryptographic software.
Set your software to update automatically. Software updates include performance and security improvements. Using the latest update keeps your software running safely and efficiently.
Use multi-factor authentication to protect your accounts. Multi-factor authentication offers extra security because it requires users to provide two or more credentials to log in to their accounts. If scammers have your username and password, the extra multi-factor authentication credentials make it harder for them to access your accounts.
Perform regular backups. It's essential to have backups of your files just in case you have hard drive failures, your system crashes, or you've had a malware security breach. By doing backups to an external drive or the cloud, you will still have access to all your files.
What to Do if You've Been Targeted
A quick and easy way to find out if your email account has been compromised in a data breach is by using the website HaveIBeenPwned.com. When you enter your email address, the website will display a list of sites that had data security incidents where your information may have been unintentionally exposed to the public.
Below are some tips on what to do if you think you have received a phishing email:
Don't click and don't forward it to colleagues. If a questionable email is in your inbox, don't open any attachments in the email, don't click on any hyperlinks, and refrain from forwarding it to anyone else so that you don't expose them to the risk of being phished. Instead, contact your IT personnel and let them know of the email. They'll be able to assess if it is a phishing attempt and communicate the results with the rest of the organization to help protect others who may be targeted.
Put your security software into action. If you think you clicked on a link or attachment that contains harmful software, you should run a full system security scan of your computer right away. An immediate scan may prevent the threat from spreading. You should also ensure that your security software is up to date. Software updates include performance and security improvements. The phishing email may have gotten into your inbox because you're not using the latest version of the security software. Make sure to make all updates as soon as possible to prevent phishing threats.
Change your passwords. If you think scammers have your personal information, you should change all of your passwords and potentially your credit card information, your bank account number, and much more depending on the level of threat. To know what steps to take, you can visit this website in the US or this one in Canada. Also, consider using a password manager to generate and keep track of unique passwords for each of your accounts.
Report it. By reporting the phishing attempt, you're helping authorities fight against future threats. If you're in the US, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. If you're in Canada, your complaint should be made with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
"Regularly back up your files to an external drive or the cloud so that you can still access them if your system crashes or if you've had a malware security breach."
New and intricate phishing scams materialize on a daily basis. If an email looks suspicious, think twice before clicking on hyperlinks or opening attachments. Always have an updated version of security software installed on your computer and perform regular backups of your files in case malicious software makes it into your system. By knowing how to identify a phishing attempt, understanding how to protect yourself, and becoming familiar with what to do if you've been phished, you will be better able to protect your computer and your personal information from scammers.