Cyber security tip #3: Beware of phish bait

If you receive an email from someone you don’t know, think twice before engaging in conversation. That pleasant, seemingly harmless, email may be phish bait. This harmless email is meant to lure you into a conversation online through which the fraudster will look for ways to trick you into providing personal information.

Phishing occurs via email, but you should also be aware of voice phishing, or vishing, via the telephone and SMS phishing, or smishing, via text message. Be suspicious of unknown senders and think twice about responding.

Follow these tips to avoid taking the phish bait:

  • Watch for communications from unknown or untrusted senders. If you are receiving communications from anyone you do not know personally or do business with, be wary. Pay close attention to the content since it is possible that a friend or family member’s account could have been hacked. If they are asking for money, contact your friend or family member by phone to verify the request. Check to see if the displayed link matches the underlying hyperlink: place your cursor over the link in the email (but don't click), and make sure the pop-up address matches the link in the email.
  • Pay attention to expressions of urgency or immediate requests for action. Scammers will try to make you act quickly by saying that your account will be closed or a purchase will be canceled if you do not act immediately. They want you to act before you think. Don’t fall for it.
  • Look for requests for sensitive, personal information. Banks, merchants and other reputable institutions will never ask for your personal or account information by email, so never provide it. If you have any concerns, call the organization directly to verify the legitimacy of the communication.
  • Check for spelling or grammatical errors. Many phishers are from outside the United States. If you see misspelled words, incorrect use of pronouns and verb tenses, or other grammatical issues, there is a good chance you are being phished.
  • Remember, if it is too good to be true, it probably is! If you receive a random communication saying you won the lottery or are heir to a foreign fortune, you might want to think twice before claiming your reward.
  • Use updated anti-virus software. Especially one with an anti-phishing filter.