If I asked you for your credit card or debit card information would you give it to me?
Most likely the answer is no, as it should be, because you have no reason to trust me.
We are used to being skeptical of people who we aren’t familiar with and trust the people who we do know.
However, on the internet some things may not always be as they appear.
Your bank sending you an email asking you to click a link to verify your credit card or debit card information may not be your bank.
Amazon sending an email asking for you to enter your email address because of fraudulent access to your account may very well be someone trying to access your account fraudulently.
Pretending to be something you are not to try and trick people into giving you important information such as passwords or banking information is called phishing; pronounced “fishing”.
Many methods such as emails or fake websites can be used to phish information from unsuspecting people who often willingly give up their information.
Sometimes emails or websites look similar or even identical to legitimate sources, how can you tell if you are being phished?
The first thing you can do is to be skeptical of every email message you get, it’s often said “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”.
Ask yourself certain questions:
“Who is sending this email?”
The majority of legitimate businesses will not send an email from @gmail.com or @outlook.com, since scammers do not have access to legitimate email accounts this can be your first sign. Another sign is someone trying to be one company like Amazon sending an email from another completely different company like: PayPal or UPS. Unless you linked two (2) different accounts, generally, different services and business do not have access to your other information so more often than not these emails are attempts to scare you into doing something harmful.
“Why are they sending this email?”
Most phishing attempts try to make it seem like a problem needs to be urgently addressed. For instance, an email may say someone tried to hack into your account or illegitimate purchases were made on your account. This is often to try to get you to click a link in the email or download a file.
“Are there spelling errors or things that look strange or out of place?”
Words being misspelled and incorrect grammar being used is often a sign of a phishing attempt. Generic titles like “Sir/Madam” are often used by scammers because they do not have your information like your bank or other institution and is often something you can look out for. Does this email or message look much different from the emails that you usually receive? Sometimes even subtle differences
If you realise it is a phishing scam then you are free to delete the email or ignore the message.
You will always be able to call your bank or other institution if you are not sure if it is legitimate or not.
Be vigilant and be safe online.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vaughn Peters, holder of CompTIA A+ and Network+ certifications and is currently studying Computer Science and Information Engineering in Taiwan. Cyber Security enthusiast and lover of technology. He seeks to educate on issues of privacy, security, innovations and other interesting things going on in technology. He can be contacted at email@example.com and @v_nohat on Twitter