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What is phishing? (And how to prevent it)

What is phishing? (And how to prevent it)

What is phishing? (And how to prevent it)

Phishing is a cybercrime that can lead to identity theft or financial loss. It can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time. But what does phishing mean and how can you prevent it? The official meaning of phishing is defined as: “the fraudulent practice of sending emails (or text messages) purporting to be from reputable companies in order to steal personal information.”

Successful scams get people to give up their passwords or even their credit card details. With over 165 million phishing emails sent each year around the globe, it seems that phishing is at an all-time high, and scams are getting ever more sophisticated. So how can you make sure that you don’t get scammed? Read on for the most common scams and what to watch out for.

Paypal phishing and other common scams

Some of the most common email scams include Paypal phishing, HMRC phishing, Apple phishing and Amazon phishing. The reason why these scams are so common is because they are under the disguise of trusted companies who we are used to receiving emails from every day, so are unlikely to question them.

If you receive an email communication from a well-known company, make sure you check the information carefully and never give away your personal data.

Phishing email tell-tale signs

    • Phishing emails are becoming more and more convincing, so you need to be wary every time you open an email with links, attachments or answer a request for personal information. These are some of the tell-tale signs to look out for:
    • Prizes and offers – if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Phishing emails promise everything from free mobile phones and expensive gadgets to large cash sums.
    • Spelling mistakes – spelling or grammatical errors should ring alarm bells straight away. But remember that some of the more sophisticated scams won’t have these oversights.
    • Link call to action – emails that require you to click on a link should be approached with caution. Hover over the hyperlink to reveal the URL to ensure that it is legitimate. If in doubt, contact the company/sender direct.
    • Deadlines – some scams work by creating a sense of urgency, threatening the closure of an account or suspension of membership.
    • Unusual attachments – if there is an attachment that you didn’t expect, it could be a sign that it’s a phishing email. Do not open any attachments unless know the sender and are expecting to see one.

By checking the sender’s email address, you should be able to tell whether it is real. If you are still unsure, do not open or click on anything. Instead, contact the company directly. If it does happen to be fake, be sure to report it to Action Fraud.

Beware of mobile phishing

Another scam to beware of at the moment is SMS phishing. Mobile phones don’t have the same level of protection as computers, so they can be easy to target. Plus, SMS tends to have a much higher delivery and open rate than email. The scary thing about text scamming is that it is designed to install malware on your phone to steal your personal data. So never click on any links unless you were expecting a text message from the company in question.

With a large amount of social media apps carrying text-messaging capabilities (such as WhatsApp), you may also encounter phishing messages through these services. If you receive a suspect message, consider who it is from and how it is phrased. If you do not recognise the sender, or you notice a message from a friend sounds unusual compared to their regular messages, delete the message immediately.

To protect yourself from phishing, it is important to have adequate anti-phishing software for all your devices. It is also important to stay vigilant even when checking emails and messages from companies and organisations you recognise. Because the chances are, it may not be them at all.

Read our guide of staying safe online to find out more or head over to actionfraud.police.uk/phishing

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