How to Recognize that you’re Being Pulled into a Phishing Scam?

# Last Updated On: November 26, 2020 #

The sad thing about the reality of what we call life is that there are thousands of things that can add to it on a daily basis. With that being said, the reality of it all is also to do with what we face on the online world.

Almost more than half of the world’s population has been hooked into the internet, with the remaining half eagerly taking advantage of that. And, by that I mean the cyber scammers of the real world.

What is a Phishing Scam?

Do you know what all could go wrong when on the internet? Cybercriminals wait in all corners, waiting for you to click on one small link, or provide several personal details or information about yourself; getting rich on the vulnerable. These kinds of attacks are what we call phishing scams.

With the advancement in technology, always comes the advancement of newer cyber-attacks. Sometimes you’ll be able to recognize the most common forms, but most of the time, phishing scams take new shapes and sizes.

99% of the most common phishing scams are often done through emails, phone calls or text messages. But, you’re not going to be able to distinguish the real thing from a scam even 20% of the time.

If you think something of this nature would never happen to you? Think again. Sometimes we often think that we’re prepared or cautious, but it only take a second for you to look away, and that’s where all of it starts.

Phishing scams are the real deal. It had been reported that almost $3.5 billion dollars had been the damages due to phishing scams at large in 2019.

Here’s what Donna Gregory, the chief of IC3 had to say about it:

And, indeed it is getting much more difficult for you to tell the difference between a phishing scam and what’s real. So, here’s where the good part comes. Below you’ll find a few points regarding how to recognize whether you’re being pulled into a phishing scam, and how to avoid it. I’ll also be filling in a few pointers on what to do if ever you’re caught in the middle of such scams.

Before starting, keep in mind that this isn’t about where the scams hit, but rather on what shapes and forms they take, the lengths these scammers will go to, for you to follow through.

How do you recognize a phishing scam? And how to protect yourself from it?

There are so many types of phishing scams, so here’s what they look like:

#1: You’ve won the lottery!

There are many people who understand that events or unexpected prizes like these are too good to be true. However, this age old method still exists! And, the fact that it’s still running only shows how much it still works. Sometimes, a message or email saying that you’ve won something looks way more believable.

The thing is, there are certain phishers who do a little digging on their victims, finding out what they like, what events they’re into etc. According to that, phishing messages telling you that you’ve won something are sent out. To avail a prize, you’ll be asked to send in a few personal details to “verify” that you’re the real receiver.

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#2: Here’s the best app for you!

Sometimes scams happen through ads and apps. Have you ever noticed the amount of ads that pop up during a Facebook game? Ads are generated through your Google search history. For instance, if I look up how to sing on Google for a couple of days, before you know it, you might just receive ads showing you certain apps to download that can help “train you”.

Not all those apps are fake, but some scammers create decoy apps and push among the real ones. You won’t even know the difference because of the countless of fake reviews on them.

These apps come with either bugs that can infiltrate your phones, or the app would ask you for a certain payment to continue using it. A person who’s extremely excited about those singing lessons will probably pay for it only to receive absolute basic lessons that you could get even for free.

#3: When a stranger calls

If you’ve seen that movie, I think you and I should both take that as a lesson. But again, we can’t just start ignoring all unknown numbers. The thing about phishing calls or even text messages, is that they’ll pose to be from your phone company, your bank, or a call saying you’ve won a trip to the Bahamas.

These scammers will be so convincing, telling you that you have to pay so and so amount or we’ll cut the power, or that if you need help with anything send in your details.

The thing is, this may be the oldest scam in the book, but, times have changed; and how the world works. Companies have now started taking the safer approach and inform their customers that they would never call and ask you for personal details over the phone or text. So, if you’re ever struck by such events, please hang up immediately.

#4. Attack the social butterfly

Not literally, but yes sounds just about right. There are times when certain phishing attacks take place in the form of someone you know, on social media and real life. Most hackers pose as someone you may know and send you a request. You accept them, they steal your pics, your information and a few more believable facts about you, and make a fake profile with your pictures on it.

Then they add one of your friends or family from abroad, impersonate you, and probably ask their victims to help them out for various reasons by sending cash to “your account”. This time of scam is extremely common and it actually works sometimes.

There are also times when your friend’s social accounts may be hacked without you or anyone knowing about it. The scammers contact you saying they need your media ID and password for just 5 minutes to stalk a crush.

If you give your details then kiss your account and everything it possesses goodbye. This is speaking from personal experience. I’ve witnessed a large number of these scams for a life time! I urge everyone not to share your details even if the person on the other end of the screen is your best friend, mother or grandfather. It doesn’t matter who. Don’t give it so easily!

Secondly, if the person is very close to you, call them up and ask if it were really them. That’s how to find things out.

#5. Comply or else!

Have you ever received a random email at work or home, asking you to pay a large sum of money, warning you that if you don’t comply with the terms, they’ll leak extremely sensitive information that they have over you? False threats like these are what make people react almost immediately.

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Breathe, think, and then react. Threats like these psychologically confuse the person into believing they’ve done something wrong or what the hackers say they did. In all that adrenaline, you automatically hand out your personal details, or transfer the funds.

Always think twice before reacting. Also, if what the hacker has on you is actually big, they’ll never demand a small price. Most of these phishing scams raise the ransom to a maximum of $1000. That’s still too less of a demand to be true.

How do you protect yourself when being hooked into a phishing scam?

Before reacting most immediately to a scam, there are a couple of things you could do:

Two-factor authentication

If by chance you do fall victim to one of these phishing scams, and someone does try to use that information you provided to try and break into your social accounts or online bank account, make sure you make friends with two-factor authentication. If anyone tries to hack into it, you’ll be notified immediately through your mobile number. You can even protect your apps and accounts with fingerprint access instead of a password.

Use a cybersecurity software

There are certain great apps that can help you protect your device and the data that’s on it. Sometimes using a software will help sweep away annoying phishing ads, or skim your email between legit ones and junk.

Use a VPN

VPNs help encrypt your connection and all the web traffic that passes through it. It aids in giving you an extra layer of privacy online. The best VPNs also help get rid of weird messages or mail.

Back it all up!

Let’s just look at the hypothetical situation of you already in the middle of an attack. The hacker has managed to get through to you and wipe your device clean of all your important data. However, if you have backups then you don’t need to worry. It’s always wise to clean your devices of large or unimportant files and back it all up on a hard drive that only you have access to.

 Report it

If ever you’re caught in the middle of an attack, report it immediately! This helps you lock the hacker out of all important accounts, or for the reporting body to assist you in the next steps.

To conclude:

It’s difficult living in this digital era where everything is such a risk. But, as I mentioned above, there are always ways to avoid situations like these, or from falling victims of such attacks. Use these pointers in your daily lives and look up more sources that’ll help you in the long run.

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