Almost 60 percent of Americans have fallen victim to fraud at some point. Fraud and identity theft also seem to be on the rise. Data breaches, scam emails, and more are putting people at more risk.
How can you keep yourself safe from threats like phishing texts and emails? You can start with this helpful guide. These tips will go a long way to helping you stay safe even in a risky online world.
Learn about Social Engineering
The first thing to do is understand the types of threats that are most common. Social engineering is a broad category of risk.
It includes phishing, which is probably one of the most common types of attacks today. You’ve likely seen both phishing texts and emails.
Social engineering means the fraudster attempts to get you to trust them in some way. In most phishing examples, they pose as someone in a position of authority. They may pretend to be your bank or Internet service provider.
They’ll mimic an official email or tell you in a text that this is your bank. They might then report that someone has tried to hack your account or they’ll ask you for your account details. Some phishing scams will send you to fake websites, where the fraudsters hope you’ll enter your account information.
Other types of social engineering include romance scams that get you to transfer money. They also include scams where the fraudster pretends to be someone else. This might include posing as a close friend or family member and asking you to share account details.
Spotting Phishing Texts and Emails
Once you understand the kinds of messages that are typically phishing attempts, you can take some steps to spot potential scams.
Signs in Email
For phishing emails, you’ll want to look for the following signs:
- Poor grammar and spelling
- Suspicious links or altered web addresses
- Mismatched email domains
- An urgent call to action or threats
Most phishing scams use language that tries to get an emotional reaction from you. The hope is you’ll panic and act quickly, without thinking through your actions.
Most companies have statements that say they’ll never ask for your account details via text message or email.
The best thing you can do is slow down and take the time to critically look at the message. Often, you’ll be able to spot other signs of a scam.
A surefire sign is when the email domain doesn’t match. You might receive a message from Netflix, but the sender is using a Gmail account.
Altered web addresses usually point to the use of fake websites. An example is “net-flix.co” instead of “Netflix.com.”
Finally, you can usually hover over embedded links to see the URL they point to. If the URL seems suspicious, don’t click on it.
Signs of Phishing Texts
All the standard tips for dealing with phishing emails also apply to text messages. Scammers often use poor grammar and urgent calls to action. They also claim to be someone they’re not.
You can look for suspicious websites, although you may need to click the link to see where you end up. This can expose you to risks like malware and spyware. If you do click a link, try to avoid entering information on the site.
It can be a bit more difficult to check on the sender’s ID via text message. Scammers can spoof phone numbers, although you might be able to notice differences.
For example, Amazon may text you about package deliveries on a regular basis. If so, you can check the number against other texts you’ve received. If the numbers don’t match, then the new one might be a scam.
Protecting Yourself against Phishing
Once you know the signs of phishing, it’s easier to stay safe. If you do receive a suspect text message or email, you can report it to the FTC in the US.
You can also report phishing emails to the Anti-Phishing Working Group. Texts can be forwarded to the anti-spam number.
If you end up on a fake website, you may be able to report the site to its hosting service. You can also talk to your phone or Internet provider.
If you think you may have responded to a phishing attempt, you can report it through the federal government’s identity theft website.
You may also be able to report phishing attempts and fake websites via your browser or email client.
Stopping Phishing in Its Tracks
How can you stop phishing messages from even reaching you in the first place? There are a few measures you can take to reduce the number of fake emails and messages you receive.
For emails, you can use security software. Spam filters, blocklists, and safelists can help you cut down on the number of scam emails that make it through to your inbox.
If you do receive a phishing email, be sure to mark it as a phishing attempt. This helps your email client learn more about what emails may be harmful.
Using security software can help scan email attachments and protect you from malware if you do end up on a fake site.
If you receive a text message, don’t click any links or respond. Instead, check out the legitimate company website by going there yourself. You can also call the company or send them a message at a number you know is legitimate.
If you determine the message is fake, block the sender.
You may also want to install security on your phone. These apps can scan for malware or other malicious programs.
Keep Your Data Safe
Phishing texts and emails are common, and they’re becoming more sophisticated. Staying up to date on best practices and taking measures to protect yourself is key.
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