Every day, thousands of Americans fall victim to phishing scams.
Phishing attempts by cybercriminals typically come in the form of email or text messages in order to trick unsuspecting individuals. Their goal is for the receiver to click a malicious link or attachment, or give away sensitive information such as passwords, account numbers or Social Security numbers. With that information in hand, scammers can gain access to private banking, Social Security, tax and other accounts.
Phishing is a global business, with experts estimating that 3.4 billion fraudulent emails are sent around the world every day. The Federal Trade Commission received more than 1.4 billion fraud reports in 2017 and reports that the number of fraud attempts increases exponentially each year.
Unfortunately, phishing attempts are getting more sophisticated each year. They are no longer as simple as the now-cliché scams, such as the mysterious Nigerian “businessmen” with relatives in jail who need help or lottery winnings to share with just a small investment. Today, phishing emails are more likely to imitate legitimate companies, perhaps even from businesses you know or patronize.
Generally speaking, there are two types of phishing email tactics hackers use. The first is a mass email with generalized content or subject lines about something you may have or participate in, such as Facebook account or a Netflix account. These are sent to thousands of email addresses, and the chances are the email will be relevant to a portion of the recipients.
The second, called spearphishing, is more targeted and uses information about you to gain your attention. The hacker could view a social media post about your vacation, then send a phishing email posing as an erroneous credit card charge from that location. Adding this extra context increases the chance that the recipient trusts the email and clicks the link or attachment.
At The Fiduciary Group, we want to make sure our clients stay safe in the increasing digital world. We offer the following tips to help identify and protect yourself from phishing attempts:
A great way to test how well you can spot a phishing email, take Google’s free phishing quiz. If you receive a phishing email, forward it the Anti-Phishing Working Group at email@example.com. If you think you’ve fallen victim to a phishing scam, the FTC recommends you go to IdentityTheft.gov and file a report.
Always be suspicious if anything feels out of the ordinary. We hope you’ll stay safe from phishing attempts and exercise caution when you receive a questionable email.
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