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  • Donald E. Hester

Outsmarting Online Monsters: A Guide to Phishing Prevention

Halloween is here, and while we may be bracing ourselves for ghosts and goblins, there's another type of creature lurking in the shadows of the internet—phishing scams. These online monsters are like vampires trying to invade your house. Once they're in, doom awaits. But fear not, for this Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we're here to arm you with knowledge and three simple tips to outsmart these digital fiends and protect your valuable data.


1. Recognize the Common Signs:

Phishing scams often come disguised as messages from trusted sources, but they're really traps waiting to be sprung. Here's how to spot them:

  • Urgent or Emotionally Appealing Language: Phishers play on your emotions, creating a sense of urgency or excitement to get you to act quickly.

  • Requests for Personal or Financial Information: Be wary of any message asking for sensitive data like passwords, credit card numbers, or Social Security information.

  • Unexpected Attachments: If you receive an unsolicited attachment or file, think twice before opening it.

  • Untrusted Shortened URLs: Shortened links can hide the true destination. Hover your mouse over the link to see where it leads.

  • Email Addresses that Don't Match: Check the sender's email address. If it doesn't match the supposed source, it's likely a scam.

  • Poor Writing or Misspellings: While less common, some phishing emails contain obvious grammar and spelling mistakes.

2. Resist and Report:

When you encounter a suspicious message, the key is to resist the temptation to click and report it promptly:

  • Use the Report Feature: Most email services have a "Report Spam" or "Report Phishing" feature. Use it to notify your email provider of the phishing attempt.

  • Alert the Supposed Sender: If the message is pretending to be from an organization you trust, don't hesitate to contact the organization directly using the contact information you find on their official website.


3. Delete and Verify:

When in doubt, the best course of action is to delete the message. Do not reply or click on any attachment or link, including any "unsubscribe" link:

  • Avoid the Unsubscribe Button: Even unsubscribe links can carry phishing traps. Just delete the message.

  • Seek Alternative Contact Information: If you suspect a message might be legitimate but aren't sure, don't risk it. Find another way to contact the company or person directly. Visit the company's official website or call a known number to verify the message's authenticity.

Remember, if a message seems suspicious, it's probably phishing. Even if there's a slim chance it's genuine, never click on any link or attachment or call any number provided in the message. Take the initiative to verify independently.

You're taking a significant step toward securing our interconnected world by avoiding phishing scams. Share these tips with your friends and family this Halloween to help them stay safe online. Let's unite in the battle against online monsters and make the digital realm a safer place for all.

For more resources and information on reporting phishing or spam, you can visit LearnSecurity.org's resource page.


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