How to Avoid Phishing Scams
If you own or manage a small business, the list of things to worry about seems unending. No matter the industry or field in which your company exists, you have to maintain the quality of your products and services, develop new products or ways to improve current offerings, ensure that your customers are happy that staff is satisfied and compensated fairly, and constantly take care of the countless other tasks that go into running a successful business.
Unfortunately, the amount of tasks and considerations leads many managers to overlook one crucial aspect of a healthy business- the security of their information. While cyber security was a relatively obscure concept to most small business managers and much of the public at large up until recently, the events of the last few years have forced everyone to become more familiar with the idea.
But even those who have strong security protocols in place can still fall victim to the ever-increasing sophistication and prevalence of modern cyber attacks. One of the simplest and most dangerous ways that criminals can gain access to your systems is through the practice of phishing. Even knowledgeable and well-trained staff members can fall victim to phishing scams, and when this occurs in the workplace, it can mean disaster for your company.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is a form of fraud in which criminals pose as legitimate businesses or entities in order to gain an individual’s trust and obtain personal information. This generally comes in the form of emails from trusted companies or clients, and the messages will include links that lead to dangerous sites or directly allow criminals access to your systems.
It is called phishing because the targeted individual is baited into clicking a dangerous link. There are a number of ways this can be done– generally by offering monetary winnings or claiming that there has been a security breach. According to Phishing.org, criminals target information such as passwords, credit card numbers and bank account details for individual phishing campaigns, but business phishing can be another animal altogether.
Business phishing is generally geared more towards gaining access to company systems or networks, as opposed to just getting personal information. These links may allow the criminal a way into your company’s files, accounts, data, networks and systems.
Qualified IT risk management services and security firms can help explain the differences in further detail to your staff, as well as efficient ways to avoid the scams.
How to Spot a Phishing Scam
Phishing emails will often contain luring, threatening or seemingly urgent information and appear to be from trusted institutions. They may even contain logos or identifying information taken directly from the institution’s website. However, there are some common signs that may signify a scam.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website lists common examples of phishing messages such as:
“We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click the link below and confirm your identity.”
“During our regular verification of accounts, we couldn’t verify your information. Please click here to update and verify your information.”
Other common signs of phishing include:
- Generic greetings
- Poor spelling
- Unknown attachments
- Unknown addresses
- Fake links
- Other sketchy contents
One way to detect a dangerous link is to hover your mouse over the link (without clicking) and see if the address matches that in the link.
How to Deal With Phishing Scams
If you receive an email that appears to be fraudulent, delete the message immediately. Then contact the imitated institution via channels you know are legitimate (such as the customer service number on your bank statement or the back of your debit card) to report the event.
If a member of your staff feels that he or she may have been the victim of phishing on a work computer or system, you should treat the situation as if it is a cyber security breach. Report the issue to your security team or the firm that handles your security immediately and follow their instructions. It is always better to err on the side of caution.
Derek Pursley is an influencer marketing pro with brownboxbranding.com who is passionate about building authentic relationships and helping businesses connect with their ideal online audience. He keeps his finger on the pulse of the ever-evolving digital marketing world by writing on the latest marketing advancements and focuses on developing customized blogger outreach plans based on industry and competition.