Phishing isn’t done with a rod and a body of water. Instead of a fresh-catch dinner, it can lead to identity theft and financial loss. Phishing is a cybercrime conducted over telephone, email, or text. The victims of these crimes are tricked into giving personal information they believe is going to a legitimate business. It is so common that the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that people lost $57 million in one year due to phishing schemes.

The scammers often send links for you to click on within their messages. They look very convincing but there are ways to determine if you are getting contacted by a phishing scheme so you can protect your business.

Here are some questions to ask if you get a suspicious email:

-Do you recognize the sender? Does the domain of the email look strange, maybe even misspelled? If they are posing as someone you know, would they send a message like that?

-Who is the message sent to? Sometimes other people will be CC’d in the email, do you know them?

-Was the email sent at a strange time of day that isn’t normal business hours?

-Is the subject line strange? Is it related to the body of the email? Is it a reply to an email you never sent?

-Before clicking any links, are they misspelled? Is the message empty except for a very long hyperlink?

-Are there attachments that are unrelated to the email, like an invoice? Does the file type seem unsafe?

-Is the sender directly asking for money? Are there misspellings in the writing that don’t make sense?

-Are you being asked to confirm information?

All of those questions above should inform you if the email looks suspicious. If you don’t think it is a legitimate email, never open the links. To prevent your business from falling victim to a phishing scheme here are some tips:

-Some computers and email systems already filter out spam and fake emails, but there is also software you can install to protect you even more.
-Change your browser settings to block pop-ups from unreliable websites.
-Hover your mouse over the link in the message. If it previews a different website than what it says, that is most likely a phishing email.
-If you get an email from your bank or other subscription services, don’t click the links in the email, go directly to their website. Many phishing emails and texts say your account is overdue or to confirm information and get your bank information. By checking your accounts directly you are able to see if you are in fact past due.
-If the scammer is posing as someone you know, call or text that person directly. A friend or family member can quickly tell you if they did send the email or if it was a phishing email.
-Unless you know that the email is real, do not open attachments unless it is a .TXT file. It is the only truly safe file that cannot instal malware onto your computer. Unfortunately .DOC and .PDF files can carry viruses.
-Another way to keep your information safe is to use a VPN (virtual private network). VPNs mask your internet protocol (IP) address so your online actions are virtually untraceable. Most important, VPN services establish secure and encrypted connections to provide greater privacy than even a secured Wi-Fi hotspot.

By keeping all these tips in mind, you will be able to notice phishing messages quickly and prevent putting your business and finances at risk!

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