Phishing scams are one of many forms of online fraud. The perpetrators try to trick victims into giving them sensitive personal information like credit card numbers, cryptocurrency wallet seed phrases, emails, phone numbers, passwords, and usernames to various accounts, and whatever else criminals think they can use to make money.
An example of a crypto-era phishing attack would be an email claiming that the victim’s cryptocurrency wallet has been compromised. According to the message, victims can only recover their funds by quickly logging into their accounts via a link in the email.
The site the scammers set up asks the victims for their seed phrases. At this point, some realize they’ve walked into a trap and do not provide the information. A handful of people do, however. And the scammers use their seed phrases to reconstitute and access their wallets and steal their crypto funds.
As long as there are people gullible enough to provide scammers with profits, phishing will continue to exist and thrive.
Phishing is a major problem from a data security perspective. A significant percentage of data breaches happen as a result of phishing attacks. And successful phishing attacks are on the rise.
How do You Recognize and Avoid Phishing Attacks?
Phishing attacks aim to cloud the judgment of the victim by creating urgency. Phishing messages tend to revolve around a calamitous event that threatens considerable financial harm to victims. Alarmed, victims will jump on the “solution” scammers cleverly dangle in front of them and walk into the trap.
Urgency should be your first clue that you’re dealing with phishing. Do not open email messages from senders you do not know. If you open a message, never click on links it may contain.
Do not share your personal information through interactions you have not initiated. If you share sensitive information online, always check and double-check the legitimacy and security of the website you use.
Common Types of Phishing Scams
The most common form of phishing is email phishing. It costs criminals nothing to send out hundreds of thousands of emails. Criminals disguise their messages as legitimate communication from banks, local authorities, etc.
Some other popular forms of phishing are:
- Spear phishing. This form of phishing is one of its more dangerous manifestations. Criminals use the information they obtain from social media profiles or dark web sources to personalize their messages and make them more credible.
- Smishing. Phone and SMS-based phishing efforts aim to get victims to click a link or reveal personal information directly. These direct messages may seem more credible and authentic than general emails.
- Vishing. This form of phishing uses voice calls. Scammers call their victims and pretend to be from a legitimate organization like a local authority or bank. Then, they ask for sensitive personal information over the phone.
- Whaling. Whales are high-worth individuals with access to valuable information. Scammers target such people through personalized messages and elaborate phishing schemes. They aim to trick their victims into revealing information that could grant them access to the person’s riches.
- Clone phishing. Scammers may use this technique in combination with other phishing methods. Clone phishing is about setting up clones of legitimate websites, hijacking traffic to these fake sites, and convincing people to provide access data as if signing into the real website.
You will find it easier to spot a phishing scam if you know the methods scammers use.
How to Spot a Phishing Scam
Regardless of how elaborate and credible they are, scams always carry a few telltale clues revealing their true nature. If you know what to look for, you will find it easy to spot and avoid phishing scams.
Signs that an email, text message, or website may be a phishing attempt
Your first clue when dealing with a phishing attempt is the sender. If the sender is someone with whom you never dealt, be extra cautious. If you realize the sender poses as someone else, consider our suspicions confirmed. Always check the email address, even when dealing with someone you know.
Other signs to consider are:
- Shoddy grammar and spelling errors in the message. Legitimate companies know how to compose messages and use grammar.
- Urgency. Phishing attempts count on clouding your judgment by creating panic. If the message urges you to take immediate action, don’t, even if you feel it’s the right thing to do. Give it a rest and think it over with a cool head.
- Suspicious links in the message. What constitutes a suspicious link? If the sender has incorporated links that do not match the sending site or are shortened, you’re dealing with suspicious links.
- Links to fake sites. To recognize a fake website, look at its URL. If the URL is not that of the official site (for example carz.com instead of cars.com), you’re looking at a fake site.
- Requests for sensitive information. Legitimate organizations never require their clients to re-submit sensitive information. And they never use unsecured channels to get such information.
Once you recognize these red flags, you’ll find it easy to spot and avoid phishing scams.
How to Avoid Phishing Scams
Having recognized a phishing scam, avoiding it is as simple as not engaging with it. Here’s what you can also do:
- Be suspicious of unwanted and unexpected messages. Try to ascertain the sender’s identity whenever you get such a message. If you can’t, ignore it.
- Be extra suspicious of messages that try to induce panic or urgency.
- Double-check email addresses to ascertain their legitimacy.
- Ensure that the websites with which you interact are secure. Look for the padlock in the address bar.
- Install anti-phishing software. There’s software out there that can help you avoid phishing messages by blocking them before they reach your inbox.
- Always update your operating system, antivirus apps, and anti-phishing software.
- Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls, and never give anyone your personal information through the phone.
Best Practices for Online Security and Privacy
Some simple steps you can take to improve your online safety and security are:
- Using strong passwords and two-factor authentication on your accounts, if available
- Updating the operating systems and antivirus software you use
- Enabling privacy settings on your social media accounts
- Verifying the legitimacy of emails
- Being alert and on the lookout for phishing emails
- Avoiding public WiFi networks if possible
- Backing up your data regularly
What to Do if You Suspect a Phishing Scam?
Phishing exposes your sensitive information to criminals. To limit the damage it can cause, observe the following practices.
- Change your passwords on all accounts immediately.
- Get in touch with your bank and let them know of your predicament. They can monitor your accounts for fraudulent activity.
- Report the scam to the relevant authorities like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or your local equivalent of the FTC.
- Have your devices checked for viruses.
- Report computer vulnerabilities to the appropriate authorities.
- Be extra vigilant in the future, and draw the right conclusions.
- Learn more about phishing so you can avoid such scams in the future.
Scammers love phishing because it is a cheap method to defraud people. It is also highly successful. Scammers can be daft in their approach, so much so that they may trick even the experienced and well-versed.
Through phishing, scammers attempt to get you to give them sensitive information that allows them to access your accounts or steal your identity. They can contact you through email, phone, SMS, etc. And they seek to cause you to panic, putting you in a situation that seemingly requires your immediate action.
Learn how phishing works and how you can spot a phishing attempt. Once you understand the mentality and MO of the criminals, you will find it easier to avoid phishing scams.
If you spot a phishing email in your inbox, get rid of it without opening it. Cultivate safe and healthy online habits. Be suspicious of messages you receive from people you don’t know.
If you fall victim to a phishing scam, change your passwords, alert your bank, and report the scam to the relevant authorities.
Cryptocurrency holders are juicy targets for criminals.
Criminals may target you through:
- Fake initial coin offerings (ICOs)
- Phishing scams aimed at revealing your seed phrases or wallet access data
- Crypto investment scams. Criminals dangle the promises of easy riches to get crypto holders to part with their digital assets.
- Ransomware attacks. Criminals may infect your computer, holding your files hostage and demanding that you pay them a ransom in cryptocurrency.
Cryptocurrencies enable peer-to-peer payments over the Internet, and these payments are irreversible. Once they trick you and get their hands on your funds, the criminals can disappear not to be seen again. Or can they?
Cryptocurrency Tracing and Forensic Specialists like CNC Intelligence Inc. can trace your stolen assets and recover them in cooperation with law enforcement agencies all over the world.
To keep your sensitive information and digital assets safe, and to avoid becoming a victim of a phishing scam, remember: if something seems too good to be true, it’s a scam.
We offer complimentary consultations to determine if our Asset Tracing, Recovery Assistance, and Intelligence Services are suitable for your case.