It’s an unfortunate truth of the computer age that, as the software developed to protect your identity and sensitive information improves, so the methods of those trying to defraud you become ever more effective. It’s an ongoing battle between both sides, which means it’s just as important to be aware of scam emails now as it ever has been.
The practice of scammers attempting to get information from you through your email or other online communication is known as phishing. During 2015, close to 100,000 people in the UK reported being the target of a phishing scam, with 68% of those coming as a fraudulent email. As many more people are likely to have deleted emails or sent them to their spam filter without reporting them, the total amount could be considerably higher, showing just how common phishing scams continue to be.
However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from phishing if you think an email or other form of communication you’ve received is fraudulent. Remember that banks and other legitimate organisations won’t ask you for sensitive information by email, so any messages you receive which do this are very likely to be part of a scam. Watch out for scare tactics too, such as threats to delay services or suspend your account if you don’t comply. Anything like this should ring alarm bells, but if you’re genuinely unsure of whether an email is authentic, make contact with the bank or organisation yourself to confirm whether or not what you’ve received is a phishing attempt before doing anything else.
Be wary of any emails which have suspicious links included in the text. Clicking on these could expose your details and online activity to a scammer even if you don’t type any information in. Phishing websites can often look remarkably similar to the genuine version of a company site, so have a look at the address bar to ensure the website you’re viewing is the real deal.
The most sophisticated fraudulent emails and websites can be very difficult to spot on your own. Thankfully, there are plenty of security programmes you can run on your computer, tablet or smartphone to help protect you from any phishing attempts. Password managers are also useful to give your personal details added security.