Avoiding online scams Phishing

Phishing scams are amongst the most popular type of online crime and are surprisingly easy to fall for. You might think you're savvy enough to avoid being scammed online, but the people behind these scams are becoming increasingly clever at trapping their victims.

So, what exactly is a phishing scam? Nope, it has absolutely nothing to do with angling. If you've ever received an email that appeared to be from PayPal or Amazon, but that didn't look quite right - that was an example of a phishing scam. Many people fall for these scams, and they can be devastating.

In the clip above from My Online Nightmare, Prof. Monica Whitty points out the lengths that some scammers will go to, to get what they want. Click here to watch the full series of My Online Nightmare. Please bear in mind that some episodes may not be suitable for a younger audience.

Something smells Phishy

Here, we give you some tips on how you can stay safe when there's a phishing scam at every corner...

Sending sensitive information over email is a no-no

If a company asks for confidential information over email, they are most definitely a dodgy lot. Legitimate companies will never ask for your private info over email, and often, banks will point out that anyone asking for this type of stuff over email is not to be trusted.

Don't fall for scare tactics

Scammers often will threaten to close your account if you don't provide them with the information requested - Don't crack under the pressure! Scaring you into giving up information is a common method used by scammers to get what they want. When in doubt, contact the company directly to confirm whether the request is authentic.

Check out the privacy policy

Okay, we're not going to pretend that this is the most exciting of activities, but it is useful to see whether certain websites you have signed up to mention in their privacy policy if they will or won't sell their mailing list. This policy can usually be found at the bottom of a webpage and if they state that they will sell their mailing list AND you happen to be receiving a lot of spam from websites you don't know, then it might be an idea to unsubscribe from that website, as they will be sharing your information with anyone that takes their fancy.

Be wary of impersonal emails

Fraudulent emails will usually not be personalised and will often start by referring to you as Sir/Madam. They may mention a company that you have never even heard of, and a lot of the time will contain spelling and grammar mistakes.

You can't always trust a link

Never click a link to a website in an email, unless you are completely sure of who the email is from. Instead, directly type the genuine URL of the website into the address bar. Fake websites are often VERY good at masquerading as the real thing!

Watch out for copycat apps

There are many apps available that might look like Twitter, Snapchat or Facebook, but once downloaded, they'll ask for your details and it's all downhill from there. It's also important to be careful of apps that tell you things that are too good to be true - such as the promise of increasing your Instagram followers for free. Only download apps from trusted developers, and always check out the reviews.

Keep viruses at bay

Much like taking vitamins to keep your body from catching the flu, your computer needs protection from illnesses, too. Make sure to have software installed and updated on your computer, such as Norton who offer free trials, and keep those phishing scams away.

What if I fall for a phishing scam?

Sometimes, no matter how good you are at avoiding them, you might just fall for a phishing scam. These points can help you resolve the situation...

  • Change your email or account password or PIN number.
  • If you have a bank account and think that there's a chance that money may have been taken out or details may have been stolen, contact your bank immediately and talk them through your concerns.
  • Update your computer software to the most recent version and run a security scan to check if your computer has been infected with a virus.
  • Check all of your accounts regularly. This way, if anything out of the ordinary appears, you'll be able to notice it straight away.

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