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How to protect your account from phishing attacks

Protecting your account from phishing attacks has now become more important than ever because scammers have begun perpetrating information theft online especially as the year runs down. These scammers have advanced so much that their thefts can be executed in a variety of seemingly innocent ways. Sometimes, they may hide behind voices you trust, like your family, friends, or even your bank. Other times they go as far as creating a link that leaves you vulnerable once you click on it or creating a fake website that can steal your data. For this reason, you need to learn how to protect yourself from phishing attacks and how to generally spot these kinds of attacks. As we dive into details of phishing attacks and their preventive measures, you should always remember that your account details are personal and shouldn’t be shared with just anybody. 

What is phishing?

Phishing convinces you to take a specific action, which allows a scammer to access your device, personal information, or accounts. Essentially, these scammers pretend to be an individual or organization you can trust and use this avenue to steal your credit card information or infect you with malware. 

In more straightforward terms, this scheme tries to bait you with trust to get valuable personal information from you. Most times, these phishing schemes may nudge you to follow a link, open an attachment, reply with your personal information, or fill out a form with your login details. Doing any of these actions automatically gives a scammer access to your details. For this reason, you must always try to protect your details at all times. 

Examples of phishing attacks

The most common phishing scenario plays out like this:

  • You open your email on your smartphone or computer and all of a sudden an alert from your bank enters into your inbox. Thereafter, you click on the link attached in the mail and are directed to a webpage that looks almost like your bank’s webpage. 
  • Here’s where it gets complicated. In reality, this site is a fake website that was specially designed to steal your personal/credit card information. The alert you receive will try to convince you that there’s an issue with your bank account and request you to enter your login details and password for reconfirmation.
  • After you input your details on the page you are directed to, you will be redirected to your real bank’s website to re-enter your details. By redirecting you to the real website, you won’t instantly realize that your personal information has already been stolen. 
  • Once this is done, they can use the stolen information to hack into your account and steal your funds. 

Phishing is dangerous because it can trick anybody who is not wary of smaller details. To help protect yourself from this awful scheme, you need to know how to protect yourself from phishing attacks. Phu

How does phishing work?

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Anybody who uses a phone or the internet is exposed to the danger of phishing from scammers. Phishing scams generally try to:

  • Infect your phone/computer with malware
  • Steal your private details to get either your money or personal identity
  • Obtain total control of your online accounts
  • Try to persuade you to willingly send funds or valuables

Unfortunately, most times these schemes don’t stop with you. If a hacker can get access to your social media, email, or contact list, they may also spam people on your list with phishing messages pretending to be you. 

Who is at risk of phishing attacks?

Phishing can affect anybody regardless of age, status, or gender. It can also occur in their personal life or their workplace. Since almost everyone has welcomed digitization and is now an active internet user, it means that most people are exposed to phishing attacks. If a scammer can find your contact information publicly, it can easily execute these negative schemes.

Nowadays, your email address, phone number, social media accounts, and even online messaging IDs are more difficult to hide. So you may even be a target for phishing attacks without realizing it. This is why this guide is going to teach you how to protect your account from phishing attacks.

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Types of phishing attacks and how they work

Here are the different types of phishing attacks and how they work: 

1. Spear phishing (personalized phishing attacks)

Spear phishing happens when scammers research and get information about you or your organization in order to design their phishing attack for only you. This kind of phishing usually targets business emails and tries to access your company’s data and network. Most companies receive more than five spear-phishing emails every day. 

2. Email spoofing

Email spoofing is a kind of cyberattack in which scammers use fake or forged email addresses to fool you into believing that they’re somebody they’re not. In reality, more than 95% of all cyberattacks started with a phishing email. 

3. Vishing (i.e. phone scams)

Vishing is a kind of phone scam in which scammers call you and act as an agent from a prominent organization. When interacting with you over the phone, these fraudsters will try and deceive you into ”verifying” sensitive personal information or transferring your money to them.

4. Social media phishing

Scammers may also send phishing attacks over different social media platforms because these con artists are crawling the web every day. Scammers can use platforms like Instagram, Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and even LinkedIn to perpetrate phishing attacks.

The intent of social media phishing is usually to get you to give up your social media account login details. These scammers will then try to use your profile to deceive your friends.

5. Smishing (also known as fake text messages)

Smishing is a kind of phishing in which fraudsters use fake text messages to deceive you into giving out your Personal Identifiable Information (PII). 

6. Phishing websites

A phishing website is a fake and malicious website that hackers use to fool you into giving out confidential information. For instance, they may create a website that is almost identical to your bank’s login page to persuade you to input your account number, password, and other relevant information.

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How to protect your account from phishing attacks

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Here are some tips to teach you how to protect your account from phishing attacks and generally reduce your risk of falling prey: 

1. Learn to identify the warning red flags of a phishing attack

Although email is the major method scammers use to execute phishing attacks, they may also make use of fraudulent text messages (smishing), phone calls (vishing), social media fake messages, or even fake websites to perpetrate their scams. Here are some major warning signs of a phishing attack:

  • Spelling and glaring grammatical blunders in the body of an email, direct message, or text message. Legitimate organizations employ professional writers and editors to check for errors. Don’t think that it was just a simple mistake.
  • Phone calls or text messages requesting your personal information 
  • Email addresses or “from” email names that don’t correspond to each other. Also, be wary of any email that you receive from a public email address, such as Yahoo!, or Gmail.
  • Claims that you won prizes, money, or other rewards that you never contested for. Fraudsters usually use social engineering to deceive you into acting immediately without thinking. They may even threaten you.
  • Bills or Invoices that you don’t recognize, particularly coming from organizations that you use.
  • Suspicious or shortened links. Be very wary of clicking on links. 

2. Install an antivirus software on your computer or phone to protect against malware

Antivirus software protects you from malware. Essentially, it scans your computer, smartphone, or even inbox to detect malware. Also, some antivirus solutions include a firewall to stop you from visiting phishing sites or downloading malware incorporated in email links. It reduces your risk of getting scammed

3. Boost your email security by updating your app, and ensure that you use spam filters

To avoid receiving numerous spam and scam emails, ensure that you update your spam filters to block more likely phishing attacks. Also, don’t forget to update your email app at all times, as this can help to boost security, which protects you from scammers. 

4. Visit websites directly (never click on links embedded in messages)

Phishing scams may also try to get you to input information on fake websites. If you get an email, text message, or any other kind of message that claims to be from an organization that you know and trust and requests that you click on a link in the mail, don’t. Rather, visit the website directly through your browser to ensure they don’t scam you.

5. Activate call filters on your phone

Call filters help by creating a different inbox for text messages that you receive from people who are not on your contacts list. This is a great way for you to avoid phishing attacks. Follow these steps to set up call filters on your smartphone:

  • On iPhone: Go to Settings – tap on “Messages” -Toggle switch for the “Filter Unknown Senders.”
  • On Android: Go to the Message App on your Android, and tap on the three dots you find in the top right corner. Next, click on “Settings” from the options provided and tap on “Spam protection.” Ensure that you turn on “Enable spam protection” to receive spam alerts.

6. Remove your contact information from data brokers

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Phishing attacks generally need your personal details in order to target you (phone number, email address, social media details, etc.). One of the easiest ways scammers can get these details is to buy massive lists of contact information from different data brokers. You can ask data brokers to remove your contact information from their compiled lists.

7. Ignore pop-ups (particularly those that claim your smartphone has been infected with a virus)

Cybercriminals can also use pop-ups to disseminate different kinds of destructive malware. Usually, they’ll include alert messages and threats that claim your smartphone or computer has been infected with destructive malware. Then, they’d urge you to call tech support to fix the issue. But this is untrue and part of a detailed phishing scam. Ensure that you ignore these kinds of pop-ups. 

8. Update all your apps and software regularly and maintain very good cyber hygiene

Software updates usually include security fixes for known exposures that cyber attackers can otherwise exploit to hack into your smartphone to computer. Hence, you must keep your device software and operating system updated at all times.

9. Don’t be deceived by alarming or threatening messages and calls

Whenever you feel a sense of urgency or threat from a phone call or message, slow down immediately. This is one major red flag of a phishing attack. Rather, reach out to the company directly and make inquiries about the situation. This way, you’d be certain that you are talking to the actual company.

10. Avoid using public Wi-Fi whenever possible

Public Wi-Fi and other unsecured networks in general are notoriously very easy to hack. For this reason, you must be wary of using public Wi-Fi, especially when you want to log in to your bank app. Whenever you need to use your phone or computer in public, make sure you use either a virtual private network (VPN) or a mobile hotspot. A VPN helps to encrypt your data so that attackers can’t access your sensitive information while a hotspot is personal, so it does not expose you to any risk.  

How to reduce your spam to avoid phishing

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Here are some tips on how to reduce your spam to avoid phishing:

  • Set up a private email address. Use this address only for personal correspondence and be wary of using it to sign up on just any website. You can create a public email address to sign up on different platforms. 
  • Never reply to any spam. Most spammers confirm receipt and log all responses. The more you reply to the spam, the more spam you’ll receive.
  • Think before you tap on any ‘unsubscribe.’ button. Spammers can try to compile active email addresses by sending fake unsubscribe letters. 
  • Do not click on links in emails that you receive from unknown sources.
  • Make sure you keep your browser updated at all times. Most updated apps have applied security patches, which reduces your exposure to phishing attacks.
  • Use anti-spam filters. Make sure you only open email accounts with providers that incorporate spam filtering. Use an antivirus that also incorporates well-advanced anti-spam features.

When it comes to learning how to protect your account from phishing attacks, it’s in your best interest to also learn about the different kinds of phishing. This will let you know the red flags to watch out for, which will help you to be better protected from these misleading schemes. Trust and urgency are two major things that make phishing so deceitful and dangerous. 

So if the attacker can convince you to trust them with your details and to take immediate action without thinking, you’re a very easy prey. To wrap this up, we recommend that you think before acting upon any text message or email you receive and be very mindful of the interactions you engage in online. 

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Emmanuel

Dec 13, 2023

11 mins read

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