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Spot Phishing Attacks Before They Catch You

Spot Phishing Attacks Before They Catch You
By: Leigh Goldie

If something fishy is going on with an email you received, you should definitely trust your intuition. Email phishing scams have become an easy way to lure recipients into sharing personal information or clicking on links that install harmful computer malware. The senders of these emails pretend to be reputable companies, requesting financial and personal information, or saying there is something wrong with your account. But their ultimate goal is to trick you into providing account information they will then use to buy things on their own or to steal your identity.

In conjunction with National CyberSecurity Awareness Month, Visa has provided a detailed example of a phishing scam email. Scroll over the blue arrows and it will reveal various examples of how this email is a scam. Emails like this usually present a problem with one of your accounts and ask you to update your information within a specific time period.

While your heart may begin to beat faster, the first thing you should do with this email is to not click, reply or call their given phone numbers. Clicking on their email link can lead you to files which will spread malicious software onto your computer. Instead, think of the company they represent. Find your actual account information by reviewing your monthly statement from that company. Call the company directly via the phone number you can find on their reputable site that you Googled for authenticity, or on their monthly statement, and ask them about your account. Also, tell them about the email you received and how you believe it is fraudulent.

Use OnGuardOnline.gov to learn more about the steps of phishing emails. They provide examples, suggestions on how to deal with phishing scams, and action steps you can take. Make sure you are always cautious when you open an email from someone you donʼt know – do not provide them with your personal information and never click on their links. Always visit their website by Googling it if it seems questionable. Investigate whether your email client or web browser offers anti-phishing features. Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari already have them, but there are many other applications to help you. Make sure you are taking advantage of them. You are the only one that can spot phishing emails, so stay educated – otherwise you might get caught in the net.

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Christina O’Neill has been working in the information security field for 3 years. She is a board member for the Northern Ohio InfraGard Members Alliance and a committee member for the Information Security Summit, a conference held once a year for information security and physical security professionals.

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