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Phishing may sound like a fun pastime, but we can promise you it’s not. Phishing is a type of cybercrime where criminals try to steal your personal information by posing as a trustworthy company. This is usually done through email and these days hackers are sophisticated enough that it can be tough to spot a fake one. So how does phishing work and what can you do to prevent it?
Phishing emails look authentic, but are instead full of viruses, malware, ransomware, and other various tricks to get you to enter your personal information. For example, you may receive an email that appears to be from your credit card company asking you to follow a link and confirm your private information. It looks legitimate, so you do. If it is phishing, the link may infect your computer with a virus that sends the hacker your information. Or, it might take your files for ransom and demand money. There are various ways cyber criminals can trick you into giving them information, but thankfully we have some tips to combat these attacks.
First, check that the email is from an email address you trust. It may say it’s from PayPal, but then when you check the actual address, you realize it has nothing to do with PayPal.
If you receive an email from a trusted source that you are not expecting, make sure to take extra precautions.
Also check for misspellings and improper grammar. Most legitimate organizations have systems in place to avoid common mistakes.
If all of the above checks out, be sure to double check all links before clicking on them. If you hover over a link, the URL will appear. If the URL looks like a legitimate site that makes sense with what is supposed to be linked, it should be good. If the URL has nothing to do with the link, do not click it.
Be sure to take extra caution if the email urges immediate action, claims you won a contest you never entered, or asks for a donation. These are all common phishing tactics.
Do not open any attachments unless you are expecting them. Attachments are an easy way to send viruses.
If you’re in doubt, go ahead and contact the sender to double check that it’s a legitimate email. Uncle Dan won’t be as upset that you double checked the PDF he sent is real as you will be if you’re caught up in a phishing scam.