Phishing scams have emerged as one of the most common forms of cyberattacks and have increased significantly in recent years. These attacks happen frequently and possess severe consequences for users. In 2021, the most common types of cybercrime reported were phishing scams and similar frauds.
With more daily activities shifting online and insecure internet surfing, cyber crimes have risen in many parts of the world. In the first quarter of 2021, over 600,000 unique phishing websites were detected. This article explores the mode of phishing attacks, how to recognize them, and ways to protect against phishing scams.
The Scammers’ Mode of Operation
Attackers use different modes to conduct phishing attacks, including emails, SMS, and phone calls. The most common among them is email phishing, in which scammers send emails to users posing to be from a legitimate or renowned source, such as banks or eminent brands or companies.
Phishing emails contain malicious links or attachments to redirect users to a carefully constructed phishing site. These websites masquerade as online forms or sign-in pages. Once you enter your credentials, cybercriminals capture this information to commit online fraud or identity theft.
Other modes of phishing scams include smishing, vishing, etc.
- Smishing: Smishing is also known as SMS phishing, and attackers use text messages or MMS to send phishing links or attachments to users.
- Vishing: Vishing is a form of phishing in which attackers lure users over a phone call and trick them into revealing their sensitive information.
- Spear Phishing: Spear phishing is a mode of phishing that also uses emails to scam a specific, more targeted individual, business, or organization.
- Whaling: Whale phishing is another email phishing targeting high-profile employees, especially C-suite executives, to lure them into performing actions like wire transfer of funds.
- Angler Phishing: This mode of phishing uses social media to target its social media users. Scammers pose as customer service agents to trick disgruntled users into revealing their sensitive information.
How to Recognize Phishing Scams?
Phishing scams lure victims into clicking on malicious links or opening attachments. While phishing emails are sometimes hard to identify, they all possess common features that can help you identify them. An email might be from a scammer if it;
- Claims a problem with your financial account or payment information and asks you to resolve it by following the link.
- Contains a suspicious invoice.
- Asks you to make a payment you don't recognize.
- Offers a coupon for free stuff in exchange for your personal information.
- Offers a government refund by asking you to register on the phishing website.
How to Protect Yourself From Phishing Attacks?
Successful phishing attacks can cause devastating damage to users, including the loss of financial and personal data, loss of money and reputations, and disruption of daily activities. Protecting yourself against phishing scams and being mindful while handling such emails is essential. Some tips to protect against phishing attacks are given below.
- Examine the sender's email address, URL, and spellings as scammers use names of legitimate sources with slight differences to trick you and gain trust.
- Don't click on any link or attachment in an unsolicited email unless you're sure about that source. It's better to look up the company's phone number and call them directly to clear misunderstandings.
- Remember, banks or companies don't generally send emails or SMS to ask for your financial or personal data.
- Be careful while downloading attachments in an email. Never download attachments from an unknown sender.
- Set up multi-factor authentication for your online accounts having this option.
Phishing scams are dangerous and, if successful, can cost you a lot. Protecting all your sensitive information becomes challenging with activities and accounts shifting online. In this era of digital transformation, it is essential to understand the consequences of oblivious internet usage and mishandling account information. Be mindful of what you do on the internet and how you handle your online accounts and personal information.