What is phishing and what can you do about it?

We’ve all heard of it, but have you ever wondered why it’s called “phishing”? It’s as simple as it sounds. Phishing is when someone on the internet tries to capture your information by casting a tempting lure. The lure looks legit, so you bite. Next thing you know, you’re chewing on a fake worm. Ew.

How Phishing Works

Phishers maliciously want to take advantage of as much personal data as they can sink their hooks into. They are able to do this by putting out a fake worm, typically through sending an email. The email looks like it’s from your bank, credit card, or favorite online store. Even the content of the email has what looks like authentic logos and graphics. You may think you could never be fooled, but a phishing message is often urgent or threatening. Since it’s coming from a trusted source, you take the bait.

And that’s when the phishing scam really takes off. Each time someone is tricked by a phisher, more people are victimized. Even companies with the tightest security measures in place can find their brand name in the middle of a phishing firestorm.

What to Do If You Suspect Phishing

The best way to stop phishing scams is to let others know right away. Share what happened on your social media channels to alert your personal network. There’s also a pretty good chance that the company at risk will notice it and more quickly put a stop to it. Next, call your friends and family to make sure they know not to click on any phony links that come from you. If you are a member of a listserv, such as your neighborhood’s or other organization’s, send a message to the whole group to let them know. And finally, file a phishing report with the Department of Homeland Security.

Red Flags of Phishing Emails

  • The email address in the “to” field is not your own.
  • Hover your mouse over the link in the email. If it starts with “http” instead of “https”, there could be a problem.
  • Read the email carefully for any typos or strange spellings.
  • If your bank, credit card, or healthcare provider typically sends you messages through a secure client portal, be cautious of any direct emails asking for personal information.

What to Do If You’ve Been Phished

If you’ve fallen victim to a phishing scam, time is of the essence. You don’t yet know what kind of information the phisher has accessed. Change all of your passwords immediately. Call your local police department, bank, credit card, and credit reporting companies.

Prevent Phishing Scams

Remember, YOU can prevent phishing scams. Be an anti-phishing hero and check out StaySafeOnline.org for more ways to make the internet a safer place.