Cordell & Company Insurance Agency Blog
There are new criminals in town, and they may be as close as your laptop or smartphone. These digital fraudsters are experts in what’s known as phishing—a practice by which internet fraudsters impersonate businesses to try to trick victims into sharing sensitive personal information. This includes login and password details, bank account information, or even social security numbers. The cyber-crooks then use these details to perpetrate crimes such as identity theft and fraud.
Read more: What You Need to Know About Identity Theft and Fraud
Phishing scams are a fast-growing form of cybercrime. According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, Inc., 2022 was a record year for phishing attacks with more than 4.7 million incidents reported. And phishing also tops the IRS “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams, impacting everyone from payroll and tax professionals to unsuspecting taxpayers themselves.
Older individuals are especially at risk for phishing scams. The Stanford Center on Longevity reports that those over age 65 are 34% more likely to fall victim to a “phishing expedition” than those in their 40s.
How many types of phishing scams are there and how can you protect yourself against them? Here’s what you need to know.
Email Phishing ScamsAlthough all phishing methods involve tricking unsuspecting victims into revealing their sensitive personal and/or financial information, there are two broad email phishing methods:
The Federal Trade Commission recommends taking the following steps to report phishing:
Step 1: If you got a phishing email, forward it to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you got a phishing text message, forward it to SPAM (7726).
Step 2: Report the phishing attack to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
Phishing Goes Beyond EmailPhishing has evolved far beyond email. Watch out for these scams.
VishingThe term vishing combines the words “voice” and “phishing” to describe phone calls meant to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing their personal information. And vishers are clever, sometimes using information from social media profiles to make it sound as though the call is legitimately coming from a bank, a credit card company or even from the IRS.
Characteristics of a vishing call may include:
The IRS does not call taxpayers to demand payment, nor does it ask for your debit or credit card information over the phone. If you suspect that a scammer is posing as a representative of the IRS, hang up immediately and contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at (800) 366-4484 to report it. Alternatively, use the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting site.
SmishingSmishers contact victims via SMS (text) messages in an attempt to gain access to personal information. Hallmarks of smishing include:
Social Media PhishingIf you’re on Facebook or other social media networks, you may receive a duplicate friend request from someone you’re already friends with on the platform. Chances are a social media phisher is casting a line. Watch for these signs of social media phishing:
PharmingThe word pharming combines phishing with farming and it’s yet another form of cybercrime. When pharming, fraudsters secretly install malicious code on a computer or server to direct traffic away from a real website to a fake website. The fake website can send malware to visitors’ own computers or collect personal information. Criminals can use your information for a variety of fraudulent and illegal activities, such as:
Read more: How to Cyberproof Your Smartphone
As a computer and smartphone user, the best way to protect yourself from phishing scams is to become familiar with their many forms. Know what to watch for and never open attachments, click on links or respond to unsolicited communications if anything seems even a little off. When it comes to phishing, it’s better to play it safe in order to protect your personal information and avoid becoming yet another fraud or identity theft victim.
Have you run into any phishing scams recently? Share your experience and any tips you have for avoiding them below.