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Avoiding Phishing Scams

Phishing is one of the most prevalent of all internet scams. If you have ever received an email in your inbox claiming to be from a financial institution requesting your information, you have been a target of a phishing scam.

Here are some tips on how to recognize and avoid being a victim of phishing scams.

How Phishing Scams Work

Phishing scams attempt to trick people into providing sensitive personal information such as credit card or banking details. In order to carry out this trick, scammers send a fraudulent email disguised as an official request for information from a targeted company. Generally, they also create a “look-a-like” website that is designed to closely resemble the targeted company’s official site.

Recipients of the scam email are requested to click on an included hyperlink. Clicking this link will cause the fake website to open in the user’s browser. Once at this fake website, the user may be presented with a web form that requests private information such as credit card and banking details, addresses, phone numbers and even login details. All information entered into this fake website can subsequently be collected and used at will by the criminals operating the scam.

How to Recognize a Phishing Scam

Here is an example of what a phishing email looks like. Further explanation below:

1. Sender’s Address The “From” line may include an official-looking address that mimics a genuine one. Always check the email for weird or mispelt domain names. 2. Generic Greetings Be wary of impersonal greetings like “Dear Customer” or just your email address. A legitimate email from a financial institution will almost always greet you by your first and last name. 3. Typos/Poor Grammar Emails sent by well-known companies are almost always free of misspellings and grammatical errors. 4. False Sense of Urgency Many scam emails tell you that your account will be in jeopardy if something critical is not updated right away. If you feel threatened by the tone of the email this is a clear warning sign. 5. Disguised Links and Email Addresses These may look real, but they can lead you astray. Check where a link is going before you click by hovering over the URL in an email, and comparing it to the URL in the browser. If it looks suspicious, don’t click. 6. Attachments A real email from a financial institution will never include an attachment or software. Because they can contain spyware or viruses, you should never open an attachment unless you are 100% sure it’s legitimate.

How to avoid becoming a victim of a Phishing Scam

  1. If you receive any unsolicited email that asks you to click an included hyperlink and provide sensitive personal information, you should view the message with the utmost suspicion. Contact the institution directly to check.

  1. Never click on a link in an email in order to access the website of a bank or other institutions that may be the target of scammers. The safest method is to manually enter the URL of the institution’s website into your browser’s address bar.

  1. Always ensure that the site is secure when entering sensitive information. The address of the page should start with “https://” not just “http://” and the Lock icon should be displayed in the browser’s status bar.

  1. Use proper firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software to protect your computer system. Some phishing scam emails may carry trojans or other malware that may compromise your system.

  1. Ensure that your browser, system software and other applications have the latest security updates available. This will reduce the risk of scammers accessing your system via unpatched software vulnerabilities.

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