If you receive an email that looks official, you need to examine it thoroughly before you click on any links or open any attachments. The first step is to call the company and verify the validity of the email, whether it is your bank, your insurance company or another organization you where you conduct business.
The IRS wants taxpayers to know that they do not contact taxpayers by email to request information. So, beware of emails with subject likes such as “Notice from the IRS” or “IRS taxpayer refund.” If you do click on a link within such an email and enter your personal taxpayer information, the cyber thief may gain access to your tax refund. The IRS asks that taxpayers forward these suspicious emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not all phishing scams take place by email; some come in the form of phone scams. If a caller claims to be from an official organization and uses threats of immediate payment or arrest, the best advice is to hang up. You should never give out your personal information, including account numbers or social security numbers, over the telephone.
Another scam to be on the lookout for is “spear phishing.” This is a personalized message sent to you by an attacker to try and gain your personal banking ID, checking account number or other financial information. The email can look very official, but if you click on the link, you will be directed to a “spoofed” website and asked to enter personal information. The hacker can then install malware on your computer or access and steal your personal information.
How can you stay safe from phishing scams? Be careful of personal information you post on online profiles and social media sites. Potential attackers can use this information to hack into your accounts. Be smart when choosing passwords by selecting those that are not easily guessed and do not re-use previous passwords. Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date to detect malware on your computer. And remember to be vigilant when opening emails. An organization where you already have an account will not ask you for a username and password. We hope this information will prevent you from being a victim of phishing scams. Be safe!