Phishing scams are on the rise, but all it takes is two minutes of your time to protect yourself against this dark art.
In June this year, the Met Police’s Action Fraud unit put an end to a scam that prevented £59million worth of fraud after three men were convicted of launching sophisticated phishing scams to access the bank accounts of customers. In South Africa, a similarly sophisticated scam targeted internet users with an offer of a loan from short-term lender Wonga. Of course, the loan offer didn’t exist and the fraudsters managed to get their hands on sensitive information.
To avoid becoming a phishing scam victim, here’s what you need to know:
- No reputable organisation will ever send you an email that asks you to reply with your password, bank account details, National Insurance number, or any other confidential information. If you receive an email of this kind, delete it straight away, and then empty your deleted items folder.
- Be extremely suspicious of any email that asks you to enter or verify personal information, either through a website or by replying to the message itself. If you think the message could be legitimate, go directly to the company’s website by typing the URL into your browser.
- The safest way to view an email is to read it as plain text. Phishing emails often contain clickable links or images they want you to follow. By reading an email in plain text, you can see the URLs these links and images actually point to.
- If you read your emails in HTML format, never click on a link contained in an email without hovering over the link to reveal the URL. If you don’t recognise the URL, never click on the link.
- When you suspect an email is a phishing scam, make sure you report it. If you’re in the UK, all suspected phishing scams should be reported to Action Fraud.