Stay Cyber Savvy: Your 5-Step Guide to Outsmarting Phishing Scams

In today’s digital landscape, distinguishing between legitimate communications and phishing attempts can feel like navigating a labyrinth blindfolded. Phishing is a deceptive tactic where cybercriminals use fraudulent emails, texts, or messages to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information or clicking on malicious links. And let’s not forget its crafty sibling, “smishing” – the text message iteration of this digital charade. 

Now that most brands and even government agencies communicate with consumers via text or email, it’s hard to know whether a message is legit or not. Consider the United States Postal Service, which should be solely focused on dependable package delivery, yet is frequently tasked with warning individuals against clicking on links from unsolicited messages impersonating the postal service. 

Many people are concerned that they’ll unwittingly open an official-looking email or text only to become victims of a scam. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to educate yourself and establish safeguards against phishing and smishing attempts. 

Here are five steps for staying cyber savvy and protecting yourself from phishing scams: 

  1. Educate yourself and your loved ones: Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report found that phishing attacks have surged and now account for 36% of attacks. Yet, many Americans still aren’t aware of what phishing is and that they might be at risk. Ask your family members and friends if they know what phishing and smishing are. If not, share what you have learned about it so that they, too, can become aware of the risks. 
  2. Decode deception: Avoiding scams entails recognizing their characteristics and distinguishing them from legitimate communications. For scammers, these attacks are often a numbers game, sending mass messages to as many people as possible. Many phishing texts will have poor grammar or spelling and may not even address you by your first name. Legitimate emails typically address recipients by their first name and demonstrate proper grammar and spelling.
  3. Beware of urgency: Since scammers are in a hurry to send as many messages and get as many clicks as possible, the communications often sound urgent — “Act NOW before we disable your account.” Take the time to slow down and consider whether the urgency of the message aligns with your usual interactions with the organization or service provider before taking any action.
  4. Spot suspicious senders: Another sign of fraud can often be found in irregularities in the sender’s email or phone number. Legitimate banks typically use a consistent 5-digit number for their messages, while scammers might use a full 10-digit phone number or switch between different numbers. In emails, the sender’s email address may appear nonsensical or unrelated to the purported sender, signaling potential fraud.
  5. Use multifactor authentication: Multifactor authentication (MFA) lets users “easily authenticate to online services” by replacing password-only logins with more secure logins. Turning on multifactor authentication means that, even if a scammer steals your password, they won’t be able to get into your account without something like an authenticator app or fingerprint that only you have. 

In a world where even simple emails and text messages can harbor malevolent intent, it’s crucial to fortify yourself with knowledge and vigilance. Using multifactor authentication and learning how to spot scam messages will help you avoid scams. If you want additional protection, our AI-powered Scam Protection scans text messages and alerts users or filters out the text if it detects a scam link. The software also blocks links from scam emails, texts, and social media messages in the event you accidentally click one. It’s not always easy to spot phishing scams, but we can help by providing that first — and second line of defense.  

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