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How to Protect Yourself From Phishing Scams

With phishing scams continuing to hammer the headlines, posing major threats to both personal internet users, businesses and institutions, now is the time to arm yourself with the most powerful form of defense: knowledge. Let’s break it down, highlighting ten essential tips for protecting yourself from the long arm of cyber criminals.

Think before you click. Oftentimes the best policy is to tread with a healthy level of caution, particularly when you’ve received an email asking you to click on a link which may or may not initially strike you as suspicious. Hover your cursor over the link to see exactly where it’ll lead you, and re-read the text body before taking action. If you’re still unsure, get a second opinion from a trusted friend.

Consider website security. This is a simple check that takes a few seconds. So, really, what excuse is there to skip it? You’re on a website and are about to enter a ton of sensitive information. You’re hesitant, wondering whether the site is legitimate or a scam. Generally speaking, a trusted website that allows monetary transactions should always be protected by SSL encryption. An ‘https’ and ‘locked padlock symbol’ in the address will confirm this.

Contact the source. You’re staring at an email that claims to be from your bank, demanding that you visit a link and quickly enter your details so you can rectify a fraudulent transaction. Do you ignore the email? Or just follow the instructions and risk it? Well, here’s a third option: contact the source. So, in this scenario, call your bank first using the contact number on their official ‘source’ website.

Be wary of attachments. We all receive attachments from friends, family and services. And most of the time they’re harmless. But it’s best to take your time before downloading as they could be a strain of malicious malware. Inspect the email body, title and sender address for any red flags, including the attachment itself. For instance, the email may sound unusually generic, saying ‘Hi, can you please check out this report ASAP?’

Another useful tip is to make a conscious effort to stay up to date with phishing techniques by subscribing to internet security news resources. Finally, you can of course add more muscle to your online shield by installing a reputable anti-virus and anti-malware suite, and by utilizing a firewall (a Desktop and Network combo is best). Keeping your browser, operating system and apps up to date can also significantly improve your online protection.

Of course, there’s no way to completely eliminate the risk of phishing. However, if you keep these tips in mind, you’re far more likely to identify threats early and take the necessary preventative action to stay well clear of cybercriminal traps.