The internet is an amazing tool that has changed the world. However, cyberspace can be a dangerous place. Cyber criminals want your personal information. One common technique scammers use is known as phishing. To date, such attacks have cost users hundreds of millions of dollars. Don't become the next victim. Phishing schemes are directed at the weakest link in any security system: the user.
Criminals send out seemingly authentic emails directing users to a website. Once there, the scammers use tricks to get people to reveal sensitive personal information. Scammers may also send an email with an innocent-looking attachment, such as a Zip file or Word document. If the user downloads the attachment, malicious software is installed on the user's computer.
Many phishing scams are elaborate and believable. That is why so many people have followed a fake link or downloaded an infected attachment. However, there are certain things you can look for:
So what should you do if you are suspicious? Don't open any attachment or follow any link unless you are 100 percent sure it is legitimate. Banks and credit cards companies won't ask you to validate information via email. Whenever you have doubts, find a reputable phone number and investigate using the telephone.
Education is also a good prevention tool. Online phishing quizzes such as the SonicWall Phishing IQ Test (sonicwall.com/phishing/) and the US Federal Trade Commission's "Take the Bait" quiz (consumer.ftc.gov/media/game-0011-phishing-scams) are excellent ways to learn about phishing techniques. "Anti-fishing"for Android is a phishing education app that allows you to test your knowledge in a fun way.
If you think you are the victim of an email scam, take action as soon as possible.
You should also report suspected phishing scams to law enforcement authorities in your country. A short list includes:
Extreme caution is your best defense against the scammers. Educate yourself about the tricks they use. Reduce your computer's vulnerabilities with virus scanners, firewalls and frequent software updates. Know which actions to take if you are a victim. Knowledge is your greatest weapon against cyber criminals. Wield it wisely and you will no longer be the weak link in the security chain.