Like a puffer fish, phishing keeps expanding. New scams pop up almost daily and they’re getting more convincing. Whether you’re a business operator, an employee, or at home surfing the net, you can be targeted—and probably have been already.
How it works
Scammers have several ways to infiltrate your privacy. Most of us know about fake emails supposedly from friends or legitimate businesses, but you might also get phone calls claiming your computer is infected or some other emergency requiring immediate action. They’re also in social media with fake customer support accounts and even direct messages.
What they want
Personal information - Cyber crooks want account numbers, login credentials, etc. Some are quite sophisticated about collecting it, something as simple as verifying addresses, dates of birth, or your mother’s maiden name could come back to bite you.Access to your computer - So they can install malware to gain control of your equipment or perhaps ransomware that can lock down all or parts of your computer until you pay up.
Some of the tricks
- If the message triggers an emotional response that might cause you to act quickly, call time out.
- Fake contests by retailers, prizes, free travel, etc.
- For businesses—false customer inquiries.
How to stay safe
- Be suspicious of everything…even if it looks totally legitimate.
- Hover your mouse over the included link to identify the target website.
- Watch for subtle mispellings (that would be misspellings).
- Don’t click on links or open attachments you’re not 100% sure of—go to the website instead.
- Know that major entities like Microsoft, the IRS, your bank will NOT ask for personal information in an email, phone call, or social media.
For more information
One comprehensive source of information about phishing and computer security is
US-CERT – United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team: https://www.us-cert.gov.
Another is the Anti Phishing Working Group (APWG): https://www.antiphishing.org, an international coalition of government, law-enforcement, and NGOs.