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  • Jul 19, 2023

Tech Talk with Jeff - Phishing

In our daily lives we all experience attempts by bad actors to try and steal things from us.

This includes information that can be used to access our accounts and can lead to financial loss, or loss of control of accounts we own. In all its forms, it is painful and difficult to prevent. Usually, the attacks are not obvious and can catch us when we are least aware of what is going on. The best protection is to be as educated as possible on the threats that can come your way from anywhere.

This month’s topic is phishing. Phishing is just like fishing with a pole in that someone is putting out a hook with some type of bait on it. They are hoping you will take the bait and they can pull you into their scam. The following are some of the things to watch for to help prevent becoming a victim.

  • Spelling or grammar errors are often a giveaway that the email or text is not valid. This has been a great way in the past to identify scams, but the scammers are getting more sophisticated and there are fewer attempts out there that make this obvious mistake.
  • Messages from an unknown source or an unknown address can be a sign of an issue with the message. Often the scam will use a random email address that doesn’t make sense against the content of the message, such as a personal email address on what appears to be a PayPal email. Keep in mind that it is possible to spoof an email address to make it look valid while the actual email address is hidden. This is a known widely used tactic.
  • How is the message addressed? Is it specifically to you or generic? If it is generic, then it has less direct relevance to you and might just be a wide net trying to catch whomever they can.
  • Is the message urgent? Most valid organizations will be reasonable with response timeframes. If the message is urgent, that is a warning sign. Scammers want you to respond right away before you have a chance to think through what is going on.
  • Is the message asking for personal information? Any time a message asks for anything personal, it is time to step back and validate whether the message is a real proper request or someone phishing for information to use against you.
  • Does it contain some piece of your personal information? Sometimes the scammer will have a piece of personal information and they are trying to leverage that information to get more personal information from you.
  • Were you expecting the email? It can be suspicious if a message was not expected and seems out of place.

These are all things to think about when you receive a message. We are all running around trying to deal with everything coming at us. Our messaging systems tend to be overloaded and we try to clear messages as fast as we can. Often without properly looking at whether we should be seeing or responding to something in front of us. It is hard, but we must protect ourselves. This means slowing down and paying attention to what is in front of you.

In general, if someone is asking us for personal information such as a password or account information, that inquiry needs to be questioned as to its validity. Reputable firms will not ask you for things they already have, such as your account number, when they reach out to contact you. They will never ask you for your password, or a code that you just received.

Be aware and be safe!

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