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Phishing is an online method of tricking a user in order to steal private information. These could be passwords, account information or numbers, and other confidential information. Often, the scams will make the users believe they are on an authentic, confidential site. They enter their information without realizing that there is anything wrong. Since more people are on the Internet all of the time thanks to their tablets and smartphones, these types of scams have increased in prevalence over the past several years, and they are becoming a serious problem.

According to Arun Vishwanath, an associate professor working at the Department of Communication at the University of Buffalo, there have already been about 400 million of these types of breaches. The problem is only getting worse.


How Does the Scam Work?

The scam works rather simply. Someone receives an email that looks as though it contains an actual message. The recipient may receive an email from what appears to be a financial institution, an online store, and more, including someone on their contact list. The emails will contain a link or an attachment, and when the user clicks on it, the malware launches. Many times, you will not even realize that anything out of place occurred. Individuals and businesses alike have become victims of phishing, but there are some things that you can do to reduce your risk.

One of the “fixes” that some have tried to use to prevent the phishing scams is improved security software. However, this is a people problem. People do not use good habits when they are online that could reduce their risk. Even though they might know and understand the dangers of phishing scams, they tend to operate on autopilot when they are checking their emails. They do not always stop to consider whether what they are opening could be a problem or not.

People need to learn how to break their bad habits so they can process the information they see in front of them better. Let’s look at some of the good habits to get into so these scams do not affect you or your business.


Rethink the Way You Check Email

You have to get out of the habit of just clicking on the messages that pop up in your email folder. Becoming a bit more suspicious can actually be a good thing. Consider that the phishing scams today actually emulate real emails from legitimate companies quite well. They will often have a duplicate logo or image from the company, and perhaps even the name of an employee from the company. The emails and sites look very real. Often the emails will tell you that you’ve received a gift, or that your current account with them is in danger of closing. This is to make people open the email without actually thinking about it.

If the message line indicates that there is an issue with the account, you should not open the email or click on any links or attachments. You should contact the company through their website to see if there is any issue with your account. If there is a problem, they will likely notify you through a messaging system on your account, so you can use this to double check.


What Information Are They Requiring?

Think about the institution that is contacting you and what type of information they are requesting. A financial institution will not ask you for your password or any personal information through email. If you notice any of these types of messages, it’s best to call your bank directly and ask them if there are any issues, as mentioned in the previous tip.

One of the things that you should never do is click on a link in an email that claims it goes to your bank’s website. These links will generally send you to a fake site that looks very similar to your actual bank’s site. Instead, navigate to the bank’s site as you would normally.

Keep in mind that these scams deal with more than just banks and credit cards. Sometimes, they may seem as though they are coming from a social media site, an online store, or a similar company. Just because you believe you recognize the sender does not mean you should trust the sender.

Whenever you have even a small doubt as to the authenticity of an email, you should listen to your gut. Do not take the risk of clicking on an email link or attachment. The emails themselves tend to seem very urgent, making it seem as though you need to take action right now or else something will happen to your account. Do not give in to the fear.


Keep Updated

Phishing scams are getting more complex and sophisticated all the time. It is in your best interest to make sure that you keep up with the latest types of scams and cons that are out there so you can do your best to avoid them. Pass the information along to others you know as well.


Educate Your Employees

If you run a business, and you have employees who receive and check emails for the company, they are at risk of becoming the victim of a phishing scam as well, and that means your company could be at risk. The team needs to understand the importance of breaking their bad habits when it comes to checking email and to replace them with a healthy dose of skepticism. It can take time to train the staff, as they are so accustomed to opening the emails without worry. The training is well worth it though.

Phishing scams are not going to go away, so you can’t bury your head in the sand. Instead, you need to start changing the way that you think when it comes to the emails you receive.

To help with your issues, we’ve created CUJO, a device that can help to deal with the security challenges companies such as yours are facing. It works as a firewall, and it can block malware and attacks, and provides you with alerts when there is an attack on the network. It can help you rest easy. To learn more, head here.