While these tips will go a long way in helping you identify phishing and fake sites, keep in mind that the scammers are always looking for ways to up their game and make their scams more convincing. It helps to be aware of the mental shortcuts you use and to really take the time to ask yourself if the site seems legitimate. Here are some ways in which you can avoid being caught in a cybercriminal's net:
- Educate yourself - Read up on the latest scams so you know what to lookout for. And be familiar with what a phish looks like so you can recognize common tricks when you see them.
- Use commonsense - Read your emails carefully, checking to make sure you know the sender, and be suspicious of any email that asks for your personal or financial information. Also be very cautious when downloading any attachments or files from an email, unless you know and trust the sender.
- Practice smart surfing - When on the web, make sure that the website you're visiting is secure before you enter any information. If you have any doubts, enter a fake password, since phony sites will accept false information. To better protect yourself, you may also want to use a search engine to help you navigate since they can catch misspellings and prevent you from landing on fake websites. Also, use a search tool such as McAfee SiteAdvisor, which indicates in your search results whether sites are safe or not.
- Use technology to protect you - Comprehensive security software with anti-phishing technologies, like McAfee Internet Security Suite - Special edition for AOL, can help protect you. Just make sure that your software is up to date with the latest security protections by enabling automatic updates or clicking the "update" button on your security software control panel.
- Be vigilant all the time - You also want to take precautions when you're offline, such as monitoring your bank and credit card statements for any suspicious charges or transfers. And consider changing your passwords regularly. Make sure you create strong passwords that use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters, and that don't use nicknames, birthdays, or other information that other people may know.
- Report anything you think is suspicious - If you do come across what looks to be a phishing attempt, help yourself and others by reporting it. You can forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at firstname.lastname@example.org or report phishing scams to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at email@example.com.
Although phishing is prevalent, awareness and the right precautions will go a long way in keeping you safe.
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