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Phishing refers to one of the oldest and most effective kinds of digital security threats. According to CSO, these scams accounted for at least 80 percent of all reported security problems.

Often with fraudulent emails, text messages, websites, or even phone calls, criminals will pretend to represent a trusted organization. They use these messages to trick people into revealing private information. Find out more about typical phishing scams and better ways to guard against them.

Examples of Phishing Scams

Digital thieves cleverly design phishing scams to appeal to the receiver's emotions. Some common examples might include email or text messages like this:

  • An account will get terminated unless the user logs in right away. The receiver might feel a sense of urgency because they want to keep their account.
  • A purchase has been confirmed on a shopping site. The user never made the purchase, so they may feel confused and anxious.
  • A company wants to give away something, like a gift card. The user may feel excited at the prospect of winning.
  • A government organization found problems with the recipient's taxes or other behavior and needs them to speak with an official right away. Recipients might fear the repercussions of attracting an important agency's attention.

An email message might ask the recipient to follow a link that's been disguised to look like it leads to a legitimate website. Very often, the thieves will do a good job of making both the original message and the website spoof a legitimate organization.

If the victim completes the action of logging in or supplying information, they will actually send their data right to a cybercriminal's database. A thief might use this information to steal money, identities, or more valuable data. They might even sell stolen credentials multiple times on the black market. CSO reported that people and businesses lose over $17,000 each minute because of phishing attacks.

Preventing Phishing Scams

Digital criminals have grown very clever. Spoofed websites, fraudulent messages, and fake links have fooled many smart people. That's partly because the original messages tend to evoke emotions that may make computer users drop their guard and act impulsively.

The best ways to guard against these scams include:

  • Filter suspicious attachments and URLs: Filtering software contains databases of known scam URLs and attachments. Some of these filters also rely upon AI to help send warnings that the message may not be what it appears to be. If nobody ever sees these messages, they can't do any harm.
  • Create good security policies: Everybody should create strong passwords and change them frequently. Even better, 2FA will keep password thieves out of websites by forcing confirmation with another device or app. Even if a criminal steals the password and ID, they can't login to the real website.
  • Train people to spot scams: Just a brief introduction to common scams can help prevent many problems. It only takes a few seconds for users to to verify messages, senders, and website URLs. Remind people that if a message looks either too good or bad to be true, it probably isn't.
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