Don’t Get Hooked! Stay One Step Ahead of Phishing Scammers with These Proven Tactics

by | Aug 29, 2023

In recent years, phishing scams have emerged as a significant threat to both individuals and organizations. These scams, which are typically delivered through email or text messages, aim to trick the recipient into disclosing sensitive personal data, such as passwords, bank account details, and Social Security numbers. The scammers can then use this information to gain unauthorized access to the victim's accounts, or even sell the data to other criminals. 

Phishing scams have become increasingly sophisticated, often appearing to originate from reputable organizations, such as banks or credit card companies, or even from government agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The objective is to create a sense of urgency or authenticity that encourages the recipient to click on a link, open an attachment, or provide personal or financial information. 

Without a doubt, the best defense against phishing scams is vigilance and awareness. Here are some steps you can take to safeguard your personal and financial information:

1. Use Long, Complex Passwords: Unique passwords for each account make it harder for scammers to gain access to your information. If one account is compromised, the others remain secure.

2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication: This provides an extra layer of security. Even if a scammer obtains your password, they will not be able to access your account without the second verification step, often a code sent to your phone or email.

3. Avoid Clicking Links in Emails: It's safer to manually type in the website address of the organization that purportedly sent the email. If you receive an email from your bank or credit card company, for example, go directly to their official website rather than clicking on any links in the email.

4. Be Wary of Unexpected Emails: Scammers often send emails that appear to be from a trusted source but contain telltale signs of a scam, such as a generic greeting, a false narrative, or a request to update your payment details.

5. Regularly Backup Data: This can help you recover your information if you fall victim to a ransomware attack, where a scammer locks your device and demands payment in exchange for releasing your data.

6. Use Security Software: Regular software updates can ensure you are protected against the latest security threats. 

7. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication for Cloud-Based Applications: Tax professionals, in particular, who use cloud-based applications to store information or run tax preparation software should use multi-factor authentication to help safeguard data.

8. Stay Informed: Be aware of the latest phishing techniques and scams. The IRS and other organizations often provide updates and advice on how to spot and avoid phishing scams.

In the event that you suspect a phishing attack, do not engage with the email or text message. If the message appears to come from a company with which you have an account, contact the company directly using a phone number or website that you know is genuine. If you believe you have fallen victim to a phishing scam, report it to the relevant authorities, and take steps to secure your compromised accounts immediately.

In conclusion, staying vigilant and informed is key to protecting yourself from phishing scams. Always err on the side of caution, and when in doubt, do not click on any suspicious links or provide personal or financial information.