10 Ways to Avoid Phishing Scams

Nobody wants to fall prey to a phishing scam. There’s a good reason that such scams have enjoyed such a long run, though: They are often successful. Phishing scams have been around practically since the inception of the Internet, and it doesn’t look like they are going away any time soon. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid becoming a victim yourself. You can learn about ten of the best and simplest ones by checking out the following list.

  1. Keep Informed about Phishing Techniques – New phishing scams are being developed all the time. Without staying on top of these new phishing techniques, you could inadvertently fall prey to one. Keep your eyes peeled for news about new phishing scams. By finding out about them as early as possible, you will be at much lower risk of getting snared by one.
  2. Keep Link Clicking to a Minimum – It’s fine to click on links when you’re on trusted sites. Clicking on links that appear in random emails and instant messages, however, isn’t such a smart move. Hyperlinks are commonly used to lead unsuspecting Internet users to phishing websites. Hover over links that you are unsure of before clicking on them. Do they lead where they are supposed to lead?
  3. Install an Anti-Phishing Toolbar – Most popular Internet browsers can be customized with anti-phishing toolbars. Such toolbars run quick checks on the sites that you are visiting and compare them to lists of known phishing sites. If you stumble upon a malicious site, the toolbar will alert you about it. This is just one more layer of protection against phishing scams, and it is completely free.
  4. Verify a Site’s Security – It’s natural to be a little wary about supplying sensitive financial information online. As long as you are on a secure website, however, you shouldn’t run into any trouble. Don’t just take a site’s word for it, though – always look for a few things before you provide your credit card information. For one thing, the site’s URL should begin with “https.” For another, you should see a closed lock icon near the address bar. Check for the site’s security certificate as well.
  5. Check in with Your Online Accounts Regularly – If you don’t visit an online account for a while, someone could be having a field day with it. Even if you don’t technically need to, check in with each of your online accounts on a regular basis. Get into the habit of changing your passwords regularly too.
  6. Keep Your Browser Up to Date – Security patches are released for popular browsers all the time. They are released in response to the security loopholes that phishers and other hackers inevitably discover and exploit. If you typically ignore messages about updating your browsers, stop. The minute an update is available, download and install it.
  7. Use Firewalls – High-quality firewalls act as buffers between you, your computer and outside intruders. You should use two different kinds: a desktop firewall and a network firewall. The first option is a type of software, and the second option is a type of hardware. When used together, they drastically reduce the odds of hackers and phishers infiltrating your computer or your network.
  8. Be Wary of Pop-Ups – Pop-up windows often masquerade as legitimate components of a website. All too often, though, they are phishing attempts. Many popular browsers allow you to block pop-ups; you can allow them on a case-by-case basis. If one manages to slip through the cracks, don’t click on the “cancel” button; such buttons often lead to phishing sites. Instead, click the small “x” in the upper corner of the window.
  9. Never Give Out Personal Information – As a general rule, you should never share personal or financially sensitive information over the Internet. This rule spans all the way back to the days of America Online, when users had to be warned constantly due to the success of early phishing scams. When in doubt, go visit the main website of the company in question, get their number and give them a call.
  10. Use Antivirus Software РThere are plenty of great reasons to use antivirus software. Special signatures that are included with antivirus software guard against known technology workarounds and loopholes. Just be sure to keep your software up to date. New definitions are added all the time because new scams are also being dreamed up all the time.

You don’t have to live in fear of phishing scams. By keeping the preceding tips in mind, you should be able to enjoy a worry-free online experience.

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