As the years go on, phishing scams become more prevalent and more sophisticated. They are often seen as one of the most dangerous threats to cyber security. That’s because they are easy to create and easy to fall for, especially for those that are unfamiliar with how they work.
Phishing can pose a real threat to your personal information, as well as your business. Their main method of scamming is typically through email, but scams through text messaging and even social media are becoming more common. Scammers often use intimidation or urgency as a way of pressuring their target into action.
Therefore, as a way of getting the word out and trying to keep everyone safe, we will be talking about how to identify a phishing scam. We will also take a look at a few of the steps you can take to keep yourself and your business safe.
Phishing Scams: What Do They Look Like?
Phishing occurs exclusively over electronic communication. This particular type of scam is most common over email. However, it’s good to be cautious when receiving a text message, direct message, or any electronic communication from a contact you don’t recognize. Here are a few key indicators of a phishing scam.
Unfamiliar Contact Name
Receiving an email from someone you don’t know is your first big warning. However, it’s also not out of the question that a real person you’ve never heard from before is reaching out. That’s why judging based on name can get tricky. When a strange name pops into your inbox, immediately put your guard up. Proceed with caution, and start checking for some other key indicators.
Just like when weighing the credibility of a website, you should always be wary of blatant typos and grammatical errors, particularly in the subject line. It’s always best to identify the problem before you actually open the email, if possible. Anyone sending a professional email would write professionally and error-free. This isn’t necessarily a primary concern for scammers.
Urgent or Intimidating Language
One way that frauds get people to act is to make them feel like they are running out of time or that something is seriously wrong. For example, they could ask for credit card information for domain name registration. They could be adamant that you will lose your website unless you pay them right now.
As a general rule of thumb, you should never send sensitive information in an email. A real person or company would understand this. Scammers, however, are mainly focused on getting your payment and getting it fast. So, they will use language to scare you. Just be aware that it’s always best to go to the source. If someone is threatening that you will lose your website unless you pay, pick up the phone and call the company you’re working with. They can fix it quickly and easily if there is a real problem. If there isn’t, even better.
Sometimes, scammers will pretend to work for a company with a name that you recognize. It could even be an organization that you are currently working with. In this case, it’s important to carefully review the language. If they are urging you for personal information or a payment, it is probably a phishing scam. It’s always best to call the company if you’re confused or have any questions.
Questionable Attachments or Links
If an email is directing you toward an attachment, payment method, or link that looks unprofessional or unsecure, don’t click on it or enter your information. Doing so makes it easy for the scammer to steal your data. Unless the attachment has been properly vetted by a trusted individual or company, it’s best to err on the side of caution rather than investigating by yourself.
What To Do If You’ve Been Sent a Phishing Scam
On occasion, you can tell that you’ve been sent a scam email before even opening it. In this case, it’s best to delete the message. Then, if there is an appropriate place to report the incident, do so immediately.
However, as phishing has become more prevalent, it’s become harder for people to tell right off the bat if the message is indeed a scam. If you open the email, delete and report it the minute you know it’s fake. Even opening the message can put your information at risk.
As previously mentioned, never open or download attachments or click any links. They could release viruses or spyware.
What To Do If You Fall for a Phishing Scam
If you do happen to share sensitive information with a scammer without realizing until it’s too late, the immediate thing to do would be change all of your passwords. Anything that is password protected that could be used against you should be secured.
Depending on the information you shared, it may be a good idea to contact your bank or credit card company and explain what happened. They can freeze and replace your cards to ensure the scammer is unable to touch your accounts.
Now is probably a good time to update the security on your devices as well. They can identify the problem you may face with viruses and can sometimes arm your computer to resist them. Call an expert if you are unsure how to proceed in your specific situation.
Scams That Target Small Businesses
According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are a number of common messages scammers send to attack small businesses. Among this list are tech support offers, business promotions, and leasing scams.
Again, if anything seems out of place about the email you are receiving, the best thing to do is call an expert for guidance and delete the message. Don’t give scammers a chance at your information.
How to Report a Phishing Scam
There are many services out there that can help if you fall victim to a scam. They will also assist you in avoiding future problems. A few places that you can report a scam might include:
- The Better Business Bureau
- The Federal Trade Commission
- Your local government website and the local police
- The Anti-Phishing Workshop Group
Avoid Future Scams
A good way to ensure this problem doesn’t arise for your business in the future is to learn more about phishing, the problems it poses, and what it looks like. Train your employees so that they don’t fall for any scams either. If you receive an invoice, be sure to check it carefully and confirm it with the company (but never respond to a suspicious email).
It may also be a good idea to install security software on your devices as a fallback for keeping you safe. Always have your data backed up, and security measures like two-factor authentication can make it harder for scammers to access your information.
Scams can attack your business at any time or any day. In this situation, it’s more a question of if, rather than when. However, educating yourself on what these tend to look like and what you can do about them will strengthen your company against threats.