Be Aware of Phishing

It seems like every day there’s a new alert broadcast about those who are trying to scam others by phishing for their information. For example, my mom has been getting quite a few so called orders from scammers claiming to be from Amazon. I worked for Amazon as a contract employee and knew what to tell her to look for. The email that she got had a return email that wasn’t from Amazon. Plus the time that the order was placed happened three hours into the future. I’m not a rocket scientist by any means but unless the item was ordered in another time zone, I don’t see how that occurred. Especially when the recipient lived in Texas. It was enough to make me aware that mom needed to alert Amazon to the potential fraud that was being executed.

There are so many venues that obtain our personal information everyday. In this world of technology, we are all susceptible to fraud and scams. It made me wonder what steps could my mom do to prevent this from happening again? To be frank, you can educate yourself on many steps but scammers will always find a way to convince you they are legit. I started doing some research because I’ve been the victim of phishing in the past. When I was 21, someone actually managed to buy a car with my ID. I’m still trying to figure out that one and that was 29 years ago. One of the links I found with helpful information is here.

I’ve heard from so many folks who claim that using security software helps. I don’t want to belittle that in any way. It does help but it isn’t a sure fire remedy. Nothing is. But you can invest in some quality programs that will help safeguard your system. I used to use Norton but it made my system sluggish. I’ve used McAfee, AVG and Defender. There’s a lot of options out there. You just have to figure out what your needs are and go from there. You also need to allow the updates on your mobile devices. Yes, they are a pain. But the security measures that are updated could help prevent future crashes on your devices. Recently, I visited a website not realizing that it had a virus on it. It completely zapped my computer. After reprogramming my entire system, I discovered that I had at least three spyware programs that were operating on my cell phone. It may not sound like much but the tech I had that worked on it, told me to start cleaning cache and cookies daily. I knew this already but it was a reminder that we can’t afford to get slack when it comes to our personal information and how it’s readily available to the public.

Multi-factor authentication is another useful mechanism that we use to help combat viruses. It’s a pain to deal with the robot check offs and typing in the letters and numbers that we see but if it means that the site is doing everything it can to keep our information safe then I’m all for it. Personally, I love the fact that so many apps are now using fingerprint identification. It’s refreshing to see that no one else has someone else’s finger prints. They are all unique. Fortunately, this can be a very useful resource because since none of us are completely alike, we all have the ability to make provisions to help safeguard our belongings.

Over the years I have learned that it’s imperative to back up your data. If you have a paper for school or a project for work that you are working on and don’t save a back up, you could be asking for disaster to strike. Once I wrote a twelve page paper for class and didn’t save it. Oy!!! Talk about being really upset with myself when I lost the whole thing. There are things that we do in life that had we taken the proper steps to prevent, we wouldn’t create our own messes and drama that have to be cleaned up at a later date. It was a hard lesson and I managed to write another paper on time but I learned to save as I go. The Cloud storage is a wonderful portal to be able to store things on but the downside is that it’s all out there. Once that information is put for public display, it becomes more susceptible to hacking.

Years ago, I fell prey to a phishing attack through PayPal. When it happened, I really thought that my account had been in jeopardy. It hadn’t been until I fell into the trap. When I contacted PayPal, they instructed me to change my password and to not respond to emails that were suspicious. If the email didn’t come from the company email, and had a generic name or questionable features on the email, that I should forward those emails to Paypal and alert them to ensure what it was a valid transaction. These last few years I have received so many phishing emails and phone calls that I finally resorted to getting a Robokiller app on my phone. It takes care of the unknown phone calls but the emails still have to be monitored. Even with all the preventative measures out there, the battle for keeping our information safe feels as if we are in a never ending war with the scammers.

Sometimes ads are used to obtain our information. If a product that you are interested in starts having pop up windows wanting your information, you may think twice before entering your personal info. A lot of pages want you to like their page and advertisers know how to prey on our weaknesses. It’s difficult to know if something is legit or not but don’t make rash decisions. It can cost you more than a little bit of money in the long run.

Below are some of the most basic signs of phishing scams.

One of the best defenses against phishing emails is to pause before clicking. First, check for signs the sender is who they claim to be:

  •  Look at the “from” field. Is the person or business’s name spelled correctly, and does the email address actually match the name of the sender? Or are there a bunch of random characters in the email address instead?
  •  While we’re at it, does the email address seem close, but a little off? E.g. Microsft.net, or Microsoft.co.
  •  Hover your mouse over any links in the email to see the true URLs they will send you to. Do they look legitimate? Remember not to click!
  •  Check the greeting. Does the sender address you by name? “Customer” or “Sir” would be red flags.
  •  Read the email closely. Is it generally free from spelling errors or odd grammar?
  •  Think about the tone of the message. Is it overly urgent or trying to get you to do something you normally wouldn’t?

Another thing you can do to determine if it’s legit or not is to call the sender if there’s a phone number listed. If not, what company are they with? If it’s truly a company, you can always look up their information and ensure they are legit. In fact, that’s one of my must do tasks when I want to verify a company is legit. It’s served me well many times. Keep your social media accounts private. It helps to protect you even further. Again, nothing is a sure fire fix. If someone is bound and determined to get information, they will find it but you can safeguard yourself and make it a little more difficult for them in the process.

Trust your gut. You know what your gut tells you. If it’s saying that there’s something fishy about the communication, it’s probably not legit. Our gut has the ability to put all of us on notice. It can signal danger or potential for harmful things. Pay attention to the little details being presented. You never know. It just might save you a lot of headache in the future. Do the research. I hope none of you fall prey to the phishing but if you do, don’t panic. Find the inconsistencies, report what you find to the companies that are supposedly being represented and let them investigate from there. In the meantime, just be careful and enjoy communicating with others via email and internet. Don’t live in fear. Just be aware that the internet highway can be overtaken at times with people who want your information.

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