People have been conned into providing personal information over email, phone, and text messaging but there are ways to recognize and avoid these traps. Ensuring your information is secure and protected should be a priority in the digital age we are immersed in.
Posing as banks, credit card companies, social media websites, or the government, phishing scams can come in many forms. Unless you are logged in to secured online banking platforms, government websites, or trusted websites, you should not be willing to give up any personal or financial information online. Never giving out your SIN number should be a top priority but also be wary of emails that ask to verify account numbers, passwords, and answers to security questions. Money is the main motive behind most of these viruses so verifying you are being contacted by a trusted source is key.
Other ways of phishing are when someone emails asking you to update your password from websites due to failed login attempts. Looking for plagiarized headers and emails that do not address you personally will help tell you if the email is fake or not. Also looking for consistencies in fonts and colors will help tell you if you're being contacted by an unreliable source.
Many schemes pose as popular companies such as Netflix or Amazon but you should be able to log on to your actual account from the secure website in order to see if the notice is legitimate.
These emails or texts may also ask you to click on a link to make a payment method or say you’re eligible for free merchandise or coupons. If you click on the actual email address you will be able to see if the email is a combination of random words, letters, and numbers or if it’s from an authenticated address.
When looking at an email or message that is asking to take further action and ask yourself; do you have an account with the people who contacted you? Have you already made the required payments? Does this company normally email me asking for information?
If the answer is no then you know that you are in the presence of a phishing scam. If the answer is yes then look at your account directly on a secure website you are familiar with.
There are some methods to protect yourself from phishing like using security software, allowing automatic updates on mobile devices, using multi-factor authentication, and backing up your data.
If you have unfortunately been scammed and clicked a link or provided personal information to an untrustworthy source you can visit https://www.identitytheft.gov/ to help take the necessary steps to re-establish the security of your information. It is also helpful to run a security scan to see if any viruses were downloaded on to your devices.
As of April, Google reported that they blocked 18 million virus-related scams per day, going after not only your information but your money as well. This harmful form of malware globally accumulates a lot of money and with more people at home on the internet than ever before due to COVID-19, phishing scams have taken on a whole new life.
Protecting your personal and financial information may seem like a daunting task in this technological age but the first step is to exercise a proper screening process for untrustworthy emails, text messages, and links.
By Surina Nath