Phishing Scams

22 January 2021

You receive an email from a seemingly familiar enterprise that you deem legitimate, such as your bank, university or a retailer you frequent. The message directs you to a site—usually to verify personal information such as email addresses and passwords—that then steals your information and exposes your computer to attack by scammers.

Phishing scams are some of the most common attacks on consumers. According to the FBI, more than 114,700 people fell victim to phishing scams in 2019. Collectively, they lost $57.8 million, or about $500 each.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, phishing emails and text messages frequently tell stories to trick people into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. For example, phishing attempts may:

  • Say they've noticed suspicious activity or log-in attempts on your account
  • Claim there's a problem with your account or payment information
  • Say you need to confirm or update personal information
  • Include a fake invoice
  • Ask you to click on a link to make a payment
  • Claim you're eligible to sign up for a government refund
  • Offer a coupon for free goods or services

You should never click the links provided in emails you can't independently confirm. Doing so will make your computer and personal information vulnerable to viruses and malware. Again, though the sender may seem legitimate—which is exactly what the scammer wants you to believe—no reputable institution will ask for your password or other key personal information online. Phishing emails will often contain typos or grammatical errors, and the sender's email address often looks suspicious.


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