Phishing is when a malicious entity attempts to scam you in some way. It could be trying to obtain your identity or money, or just putting malware on your computer. Phishing scams run the gambit from mildly irritating to crashing your system. Whatever the situation, you should be able to identify and prevent these attacks.
Phishing: A Brief History
In its early days, the Internet wasn’t super populated. You might get at most two emails a day from that random person you met in a chat room, and it was fun. Spam still came in the snail mail, usually in the form of another AOL free trial disc. Unfortunately, those days couldn’t last forever.
One day, a scam now known as “The Nigerian Prince” came along and changed the Internet forever. In this scam, people received an email from someone claiming to be a Nigerian prince who was trying to funnel money out of the country and asked for account numbers so they could transfer funds “for safe keeping”. This scammed people out of millions of dollars and has been run in many different forms over the years. Unfortunately, it still works.
Are You Being Phished?
Here are a couple of tips for identifying possible Phishing attempts:
- Personal Information: If you receive a communication that is asking for your personal information, you really want to make sure it’s legitimate before you fill it in.
- URLs: If you get an email about something and the URL displayed in the email is different from the URL in your browser window, it’s probably fake. Also, if you hover your mouse over the URL in your email and it’s different than the one displayed, DO NOT click on it.
- Formatting: If the format of the message you’re reading is different than other communications from that organization, it may be phishing. Look out for extra spaces between words, or maybe a paragraph break looks out of place.
- Bad Writing: If you read through the email and it’s just really badly written, it might be Phishing. Of course, even the best companies can hire bad writers but this message will be particularly bad and might look like someone who doesn’t have a particularly good grasp of the English language wrote it.
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