Avoid Phishing: How to Stay Out of the Cybercriminal's Net

Tips to avoid a phishing attempt.

By Tom Pica on June 10, 2012

Phishing is a word used to describe a scam or ruse designed to trick consumers into revealing personal information, such as Social Security numbers and credit card numbers, or confidential online information such as usernames and passwords. This is often accomplished by a cybercriminal masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an email. Through such fraudulent emails, victims of phishing are often tricked into providing personal information or tempted to clicking on embedded links that lead to websites where malware is downloaded to the victim’s computer.

Consumers can protect themselves by becoming familiar with a few simple ways to spot a phishing attempt:

•    Be wary of generic greetings. Be cautious of emails that use generic greetings such as “Dear [Company] Customer” instead of using the consumer’s name.
•    Urgent appeals are a red flag. Cybercriminals will often try to trick the email recipient with authoritative, urgent subject lines or threats of penalty if personal or financial information isn’t entered immediately.
•    Don’t be quick to click. While the text in a link may look legitimate, consumers should verify a site’s address before clicking. Consumers should inspect links by “hovering” over them and looking at the URLs to see if they look suspicious. If unsure, do not click the link – go directly to the company’s website by typing it into the browser.
•    Keep up with your online accounts. Consumers should regularly log in to their online accounts to verify activity. Phishing scams will often attempt to scare consumers by presenting unusually large or small account balances or warnings that account information has been updated.

Once a consumer has identified a phishing attack, he or she should not respond to or click on any of the links in the email. Instead, the best course of action is to delete the message. In instances where consumers mistakenly click links or provide account information, the consumer should immediately run antivirus and anti-malware software and change online account login details. Verizon Wireless works closely with law enforcement to target and shut down phishing scams and other fraudulent activity directed at its customers.

The best defense is a good offense. Consumers can visit the Verizon Wireless protection page to learn more about how to protect themselves against phishing email scams to avoid being another statistic.