What’s the easiest way to look for things that interest you? No, this is not a pop quiz. But if it were, you’d most probably answer: by browsing the web. And so would thousands of other web users like you. But let’s make it official already: the World Wide Web is just like the Wild Wild West. You never know when a virus, spyware, or a Trojan might sneak up on you, or when you might fall for one of those personal data-robbing scams.
Cybercrooks come up with new ways to compromise your internet security every day. If you don’t have proper antivirus protection on your device, you may end up downloading malicious software that could report your every move to cybercrooks, or willingly handing over your credit card details. How come willingly, you may ask? Well, they devise their scams so well, that you’re prone to fall for them. They usually leverage common interests and world news to breach your internet security and privacy – yes, we’re talking about highly targeted phishing scams. Users’ personal data is the common currency on the online black market, and phishers are in for some easy money by capitalizing on their trust.
Now, how do phishers “hook” you? Here are the 5 most common phishing baits they use:
1. Too-good-to-be-true offers on social media. If you ever see an ad on Facebook or Pinterest promoting a great discount, a FREE gift certificate or a giveaway from a reputable company, just STOP. THINK. Is that legit? In most cases, these too-good-to-be-true offers on social media are meant to compromise your internet security. They’re usually survey scams promoted by phishers who want you to fill in an online survey with your account credentials and other personal details – sometimes even credit card numbers. In exchange, you’ll supposedly receive the promised items. But after you give away your details, the items in question never reach you.
2. Phony job ads. Are you desperately looking for a job? Or want to change the one you have? Bear in mind that phishers have made a habit out of targeting job hunters, taking advantage of their need to put their internet security at risk. They post phony ads all over the web, even on well-known job sites, and sometimes send them via e-mail. The ads look legitimate, displaying company logos and appropriate language, but once you click on the links they provide, you are taken to a fake site where you have to enter personal details. Usually, after a few days the phishers close down the site and remove the ads.
3. Fake warnings from banks. Your bank would never send you warning messages saying your credit card has expired and urging you to hand over banking details. But fraudsters would. If you ever receive such an e-mail or text message, you’re probably facing a phishing scam.
4. Charity scams. Whenever you hear about a natural disaster and global health issues involving helpless children, you wish you could do something to help out. While there are reputable organizations that gather donations, there are also cybercrooks who want to take advantage of your generosity. They send e-mails or post touching messages on online forums, asking you to donate money to a reputable charity. When you click on the embedded link you go to a phishing site where you’re tricked into giving away your credit card details.
5. Fake e-cards. Every holiday is a reason for joy and sharing that joy with people you know, even if you’re on different continents. And e-cards seem the easiest way to do that. Even companies have adopted the practice of sending e-cards to their customers to get closer to them. Not at all surprising is the fact that cybercrooks know just how to take advantage of the joy-spreading e-cards and breach your internet security. They send you legit-looking e-cards that once downloaded or clicked on, they either direct you to a phishing site or install some kind of malicious software on your PC.
Don’t fall for these phishing scams! Here’s some advice on how to avoid them:
- Don’t click on any ad promoting a too-good-to-be-true offer – even if it looks as coming from a reputable company. Also, if one of your friends shared it on Facebook or re-pinned it on Pinterest, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s legit – your friend might’ve fallen for the same phishing scam. If you do click on such an ad and you’re immediately taken to an online survey urging you to fill in personal information, then, most certainly it’s a scam.
- If you see a job ad anywhere online, verify the prospective employer or recruiter. Read the ad carefully – check the validity of the contact details and the company name, and look for spelling mistakes – if anything looks suspicious, to avoid risking your internet security, do not click on any embedded links.
- If you receive an unsolicited e-mail from your bank that looks suspicious, do not click on any links in it and do not download any attachments. Contact your bank by phone and check the validity of the message.
- The same goes for e-mails supposedly sent by charitable organizations asking for donations. Also, if you see a request for donations on forums or social media from a certain charity, do your research – you can start with browsing the web for it – and make sure the charity is legit.
- If you decide to transfer money for a charity, look at the web address of the web page where you have to enter your credit card details. It should begin with “https://”. Otherwise the site might be vulnerable to internet security scams to which you might fall victim.
- If you receive say, an Easter e-card from an unknown source, it’s best you don’t open it. Other clues that show an e-card might be part of an internet security scam: spelling mistakes, the sender has a suspicious name like Jon Doe or Easter Bunny, invalid URLs beginning with www.http:// instead of http://www.
- Install a comprehensive internet security program to protect you from phishing scams and other internet security threats. BullGuard Internet Security 12 comes with an effective Antiphishing tool that helps you keep your data safe, a proactive antivirus engine that spots all kinds of malware, a Spamfilter that keeps your inbox clean from unwanted e-mails, Safe browsing that flags out all malicious links on Facebook and search engines and several other internet security features.