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Over the past few years, many experienced a phishing attack. Attacks rocketed during the pandemic as cyber criminals preyed on the anxieties & needs of people. Phishing scams are still common, so it's essential to be aware.

This article originally appeared on Discover & Learn on October 20, 2022.

Cyber crime continues to rise, affecting individuals, families and businesses alike. That’s the bad news. The good news is that being cyber safe doesn’t take a lot of work — rather, it’s a matter of knowing what to do to keep hackers and scammers out of your systems and accounts. Our Vault Playbook is designed to give you some basic tools and tips that can go a long way to protecting yourself, your family and your data in the digital world.

Cyber scammers have become increasingly sophisticated over the years, making phishing attempts harder to detect. However, there are still simple ways to protect yourself from a phishing attack.

First, what is Phishing?

Phishing is the practice of sending emails, texts or social media messages that appear to be from reputable companies. Their intent is to try to get you to share personal information, such as passwords or credit card numbers. Phishing attacks often involve:

  • A threat towards you (i.e., “The police are on their way,” or “The government will fine you”)
  • A financial reward (i.e., “you’ve won a free vacation”), or
  • A claim that someone needs your help (i.e., “I can’t use my credit card, can you buy me a gift card” or “Send me your credit card number so I can book a plane ticket home”).

How to protect yourself from phishing scams

While emails, texts and other messages may appear to be from a legitimate source, taking a closer look at the content of the messages can help you detect a fake. Here are some clues and tips to protect yourself from scams:

  • Stop and think a moment before opening and replying to unexpected emails. Listen to your gut. If something feels wrong, it’s safer to take more time to evaluate. Maybe it’s from someone you don’t often email or text with. Or perhaps there is an odd use of a word in a message that strikes you as strange. Or, you may get notified that your Netflix account is frozen, but you were just using it yesterday.
  • Verify requests with a phone call. As many phishing scams appear to come from an individual you know, it’s best to contact that person through a different channel to confirm the message is from them. For example, if they sent you an email, give them a call or send a text on a number you already have — just don’t reply to the message they sent.
  • Check for bad grammar, spelling mistakes and unusual language. Reputable businesses are generally free from errors.
  • Never open attachments you weren’t expecting. You may receive an invoice that ‘needs to be paid ‘or a coupon for a free product. These attachments may contain programs/viruses (malware), or links to fake company websites, so don’t click on them.
  • Don’t give out personal or sensitive information. While financial institutions, telecommunication companies and other real businesses may communicate with you by email or text, they will never include a link to update your payment information or banking details.

Looking for more great tips? Our Cyber Security Playbook, The Vault, is packed with great tips for securing your social media accounts. And it has more helpful steps and information to boost your cyber skills.

Visit The Vault for more tips on keeping yourself and your data cyber safe.