The name is derived from the physical action of ‘fishing’ for personal data. Phishing is traditionally undertaken via email. In other words, the hacker will pose as an authentic individual, company, service provider or bank, and try to get you to volunteer personal financial information.
Of course, there is no legitimacy about the email whatsoever and the whole ruse is geared towards stealing sensitive information. There are many ways that hackers can employ phishing techniques online. Social media has become the go-to medium for scam artists, owing to its ubiquity and widespread usage. The number of phishing attacks has exploded in recent years, especially since the smartphone boom. Fortunately, there are ways to combat phishing attacks through increased vigilance and security of your online communications.
How Does a Typical Phishing Attack Work?
Users will receive an email directing them to a ‘secure’ or ‘confidential’ website. However, there is nothing secure about these websites since they are phony. These have been expertly crafted to mimic the real thing (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Fidelity, Yahoo! Accounts etc.), yet their URLs will tell a different story. Users are advised to avoid sharing sensitive personal information through links on email.
Ways to Guard against Phishing Attacks
If a bank requires personal data, it is best to go and visit a local branch in person. If the email is from one of your known service providers, contact the head office or the customer support department of the company in question, via telephone. Be sure that the telephone numbers you are using are the ones provided on your monthly statement. Common sense goes a long way in combating online fraud. Never open suspicious emails from long-lost relatives promising you a massive legacy. Chances are you don’t have a colleague in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia who owns an oil rig, and wants to cut you in on the profits – so avoid clicking on those emails.
Likewise, users are encouraged not to click on links inside emails. Emails from companies that claim to have received your resume, when you never applied for any jobs, should be treated with caution. As online protection improves, so hackers step up their game to try and outsmart the available technology. Guard against phishing attacks by remaining vigilant at all times. If something looks too good to be true, it is. There are many ways to weed out these phishing attacks even before they hit your inbox. The most effective way of doing so is by employing the best antivirus software on the market.
Quick Advice for Avoiding Getting Hooked
- Your bank, brokerage or insurance company will not require you to enter sensitive personal information from a link in an email. This is an immediate red flag. The golden rule is the following: Never click on hyperlinks within these types of emails.
- Always check the source of your incoming communications (email, Facebook, Pinterest, G +, Twitter etc.)
- Phishing scams often use authentic companies to try and trick you. If it looks suspect, shut it down. Even if you recognize some of the names in the email, this does not give it legitimacy.
- Perform monthly account checks on your statements to highlight any irregularities that may crop up. This is a great way to reconcile your financial affairs.
- Boost the security on your PC, mobile or tablet. Read antivirus reviews for the best available products.
- When in doubt, don’t open an email that requests sensitive information. If it is a legitimate query, they will contact you again with full credentials. You can always verify the information by calling the company, bank, or service provider directly.