Phishing For Trouble: Cybersecurity Measures To Keep Your Information Safe
We’ve all been there. You get an email and something just doesn’t seem right. Is it fraud? How do you know? What should you do?
Cybersecurity is something financial institutions are very vigilant about. Scams are a big problem that has only gotten worse since the pandemic. The most common type is what is known as phishing email, where scammers use emails to try and trick someone into giving them money or private information. Roughly 90% of data breaches occur on account of phishing. According to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, phishing attacks may increase by as much as 400% year-over-year.
Workers Credit Union Vice President and Senior Information Security Risk Officer Patty North Martino has some tips to help keep your money safe.
Look critically at your emails – The smell test does apply. If it seems phishy (pun intended), it probably is. Here are some things to look for:
- The wrong address – Phishing emails are often meant to look like real ones and that includes the address. Scammers are hoping you won’t look at it. It could also be from a name you know, but an address they don’t normally use to contact you or a version of the address that is incorrect. For example, it may say “wc.com” instead of “wcu.com.”
- Poor form in the email – Legit emails from a financial institution are carefully reviewed before they are sent out. If you see spelling errors, odd grammar, and run on sentences, it could be a tip off that it’s not from the right person. Other red flags could be that the email was sent outside of local business times or written in a style that is inconsistent with how you normally communicate with the person.
- An urgent call for action – The point of scam emails is to get you to do something whether it is clicking on a link or opening an attachment. They may use provocative language like threatening to cut off your account if you don’t respond immediately or try to pique your curiosity by asking if an attached photo has you in it. A good rule of thumb is if you get an attachment you aren’t expecting, don’t click on it.
- A request for information or money – Never share your personal or financial information with someone over email, especially if you are unsure of who they are. This includes your social security number, account number, and passwords. Beware of anything that says you need to send money right away, especially if it is in the form of cash or gift cards that you can’t trace or get back.
Take action – There are steps to take if you encounter a suspicious email.
- Delete it – If you determine an email is probably from a scammer, do the safe thing and get rid of it without clicking on any attachments or links. Eliminate the email from your deleted items folder as well.
- Communicate – If the email is pretending to be from an institution or person you know, reach out and let them know someone is sending a false email out in their name. People get hacked all the time, even if they’ve done nothing to provoke it, and letting them know can help them deal with it.
- Fix your mistake – If you made a mistake by giving out information you shouldn’t have shared, don’t feel embarrassed. It can happen to anyone. Let your financial institution know right away. They can put a hold on your account or monitor for suspicious activity. Cancel your credit card if you think the number could have been received by someone else.
Play defense – Here are some general practices you can do to avoid having a scam happen to you.
- Use strong passwords – Your password should have at least 8 characters and include capital letters, numbers and special characters. Don’t include birthdays, pet names, or anything else someone could find out and use. Change your passwords frequently and don’t use the same one for every account you have.
- Review your information – Take a look at your accounts and keep an eye out for activity you don’t recognize, even if it is small. Some scammers may start by taking out a small amount to see if you’ll notice. Check your credit report at least once a year to see if there are any unexplained changes.
- Guard your personal information – Don’t keep a list of passwords on your phone. Stay away from things like online quizzes asking what street you grew up on or the name of the elementary school you went to. It's a way for scammers to try and figure out your password or answers to security questions.
The most important advice to avoid being scammed is to ask questions and reach out to your financial institution for help if you need it. They will not judge you. Embarrassment keeps many people from reporting fraud. We’re all human and anyone can be caught off guard. By taking the right measures, you can keep scammers from getting the upper hand.
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