Phishing: What Is It, and How Can You Avoid It?

Everybody’s on the Internet, even the bad guys. And in the Internet world, data is a commodity. That’s why when shopping online, using digital prepaid cards is usually safer. However, there are plenty more things one can do to avoid phishing attacks.

What’s phishing? 

Phishing happens when someone tries to take sensitive information through email or a website. Usually, phishing attacks target passwords, bank information, and the SSS number of an individual. It has been reported that at least 57 million dollars have been lost to phishing in one year.

Scammers use different tactics to make their phishing attacks. For example, scammers may send emails that seem to come from banks and credit card companies. They can also masquerade as an online website or application or a social media site.

The email message usually says they may have found some suspicious activity in your account and need your personal information. Some will also claim that you have a pending payment, asking you to input your bank information. They may even issue a fake invoice to make it more believable.

These tactics change every time, so it is important to stay alert all the time. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency encourages people to report phishing attacks so lesser people may be victimized by online scammers.

So as not to be victimized, here are a few points to remember:

Connection type

The easiest way to know if a website is secure is if it has the HTTPS tag. It is more secure to share information on a website with this URL rather than an HTTP in the beginning. HTTPS has Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) with an encrypted connection. It means that anything shared by the user remains between him and the receiving party.

Hence, before sharing any personal information, make sure to check the “S.”

URL

In addition to checking the beginning of a URL, it is also important to look at the end of it. This is called the domain, and it could serve as a sign if a website is secure or not. Spam websites usually have the following domain:

  • .biz
  • .info
  • .science
  • .top

Reliable domain extensions include:

  • .edu
  • .gov
  • .com
  • .org
  • .net
  • .io

Edu and gov domains are the most reliable domains, but the rest also have great track records. Be careful, though, because some scammers use a subdomain and add it to reliable domains like “.com.my.”

Also, always make it a habit to check the spelling of the website. One wrong letter is a clue that this website is not secure.

Website content

Taking a look at a website’s content can be the key to knowing if a website is secure or not. Fake websites will usually have grammatical and spelling errors, and the photos may not be as clear or as visible compared to verified websites.

In shopping websites, for instance, good signs that a store is legit are:

  1. Product description
  2. Good quality photos of items
  3. Clear pricing for all items
  4. Detailed privacy and refund policy
  5. Detailed shipping information

Another way to check the authenticity of a website is through trust seals or the partners they work with. Trust seals are like the endorsement of clients who have used the services of a specific business or organization.

Additionally, make it a habit to check the contact information of businesses. Legitimate businesses will have readily available contact information and the address of their business. They will also have the name of their representatives available on the website or a customer support center in case customers have any concerns.

In checking the contact information of a business representative, look at the domain of their email address the same way you will look at the address bar. Online tools are available to check if an email address is authentic or not.

Also, having too many ads on a website is a big red flag and may lead you to phishing sites.

Social proof

One way to check if a website is legit is through customer feedback. If there is no feedback on the site, it should already raise some alarms. Another way to know if a website is secure is by searching for it in Google. Google can easily track information about a business if it’s popular; for smaller businesses, it may take more time to dig for more information.

To help you a bit with researching, use the keyword “scam” while searching. This will help lead you to sites with reviews if the business is a fraud or not. However, also be critical when reading reviews. Not all reviews are true, and even sites like Amazon and Tripadvisor contain fake reviews.

With everything being online these days, it pays to be more careful with whatever action you take. Ensure that your accounts and personal information are secure so that you can avoid incidents like phishing.

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