More of us than ever before are exploring cyberspace. In North America over 94% of the population has internet access there is no doubt that this gives people amazing opportunities and benefits. However, there is also a lot of cyber-criminals out there. People who want to make money by taking advantage of internet users via a variety of internet crimes and scams.
One of the most common ways cybercriminals operate is by Phishing, so-called because it sounds like fishing but isn’t when you look at the spelling. Phishing is when someone is pretending to be from a legitimate business or institution but isn’t. Instead, they use fake emails, fake websites, fake phone calls (vishing). Using these they either get you to hand over your bank details or even your PIN or to click on a link to a website, which can them install malware on your device that can steal your information or even your identity. Often these communications will have a limited time for you to respond or include other details that are purely designed to make you panic and act before thinking it through.
Examples of this could be an email from someone alleging to be your energy supplier (a red flag is if you use a different supplier) telling you that if you don’t click this link to make a, usually relatively small, payment then your gas or electricity will be cut off incurring a huge reconnection fee. Another is an email telling you there is a problem with your bank or maybe your Apple or Amazon account. They might refer to ‘unusual activity on your account’ or an unpaid bill which will soon incur extra charges. The cybercriminals are hoping this sounds scary enough to make you act quickly, and simply click the link, before you’ve thought it through.
To avoid being caught out by phishing scams give any unexpected emails or texts a second look, take your time and pay particular attention to the way it is written especially the web address you are being asked to access. Are there spelling mistakes? Is it addressed to you by name or does it simply say ‘Dear Customer’? Discrepancies might be difficult to spot, even something as small as a full stop in the wrong place. If in any doubt come out of the email open a new page in your browser and log in to your account in your usual way. Do not follow the link in the suspicious email. If you do get caught out and click on the link, hopefully, you will realize at that point and close it down. You should then shut down your device and disconnect your wifi or Ethernet cable. Once you’ve done that changing your passwords is recommended. You should also run a scan to check for any malware using your anti-virus software. You should also back up your files. It is also a good idea to report the email which you can do by forwarding it to the following address: [email protected]. To be extra cautious you could also contact one of the credit bureaus and explain what’s happened and ask them to put a fraud alert on your accounts.
Although Phishing is, according to some reports, responsible for 90% of privacy and data breaches it is by no means the only way cybercriminals can access your personal data and cost you money. To stay cyber safe you need to be aware of all the ways you are vulnerable to online crime and ways you can keep safe.