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Security | 3 min read

Pause Consider Verify to Avoid Phishing Scams

Nick Bambulas
Written by Nick Bambulas

I've been working in the IT and cybersecurity space for over 20 years, and during that time I've worked with hundreds of clients. Guess what we typically see as the number one reason for a cyber incident? Human error. That's right, a company employee who is moving too quickly and clicks on a link in a spam email or accidentally enters their credentials into an unauthorized site.

Our team at Elevity does a lot to help educate our clients, but even with the proper education, it's important for all users to Pause, Consider, and Verify.  

As you work on your approach to pause, consider, and verify, you can watch our quick video that shares some pointers on how to spot phishing emails. Then, read on for more in-depth information. 

Phishing emails have become more sophisticated, but even the best-designed phishing email scams can be detected. It takes vigilance and everyone doing their part. Let’s take a closer look at phishing scams and how to avoid them, by discussing: 

Common Tactics Used by Phishing Scammers

Phishing scammers want to deceive you into revealing sensitive information like your username, password, credit card details or Social Security number. These scams usually occur through emails (or sometimes text messages or phone calls) that appear to be from legitimate sources but are actually sent by cybercriminals.  

Anyone could be at risk of receiving a phishing scam. All team members within your organization should learn to recognize common tactics used by scammers, including: 

  • Email phishing: Scammers use fake email addresses or domain names to make their emails appear legitimate. 
  • Urgency or fear tactics: Scammers create a sense of urgency or fear to prompt you to act quickly without thinking. 
  • Impersonation of trusted entities: Scammers impersonate trusted organizations, or known people, to gain the trust of their targets. 
  • Link manipulation: Scammers use deceptive links that appear legitimate but actually direct individuals to fake websites designed to steal their information. 

By understanding these tactics, employees within your organization can better protect themselves from falling victim to phishing scams. 

Key Signs of a Phishing Email 

Recognizing phishing attempts is crucial in avoiding becoming a victim. While the science of phishing email creation and detection is constantly evolving there are common red flags that could tip you off that an email is suspicious 

Here are some key signs: 

  • Generic greetings: Phishing emails often use generic greetings like 'Dear Customer' instead of addressing you by your name. 
  • Poor grammar and spelling: Phishing emails often contain spelling and grammatical errors. 
  • Suspicious email address: Check the email address of the sender. Phishing emails may use email addresses that are slightly different from the legitimate ones. 
  • Requests for personal information: Legitimate organizations rarely ask for personal information such as passwords or social security numbers via email. 
  • Unexpected attachments or links: Be cautious of attachments or links in emails from unknown senders or that seem suspicious. 

If any of these signs are present, it is important to be cautious and not click on any links or provide any personal information. 

How to Reduce the Risk of Falling Victim to a Phishing Scam 

By taking the time to read and analyze emails carefully, you can protect yourself and your sensitive information from cybercriminals. Remember to always pause, consider, and verify before taking any action: 

  1. Pause: When you receive an email or message that seems suspicious, take a moment to pause and assess the situation. 
  2. Consider: Read the email carefully and consider its legitimacy. Look for signs of phishing attempts, such as generic greetings, poor grammar, or suspicious email addresses. 
  3. Verify: If you have doubts about the email's authenticity, verify the information independently. Contact the organization directly through their official website or phone number to confirm the email's legitimacy. Avoid clicking on any links or downloading attachments from suspicious emails or messages. 

By following these steps, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to phishing scams. 

Tips for Better Online Safety 

In addition to critically evaluating your emails, consider these tips designed to further reduce your chances of becoming a victim of a phishing scam: 

Keep software up to date: Regularly update your business’s technology including operating system, web browsers and antivirus software to ensure you have the latest security patches. 

Use strong and unique passwords: Create strong passwords that include a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. 

Enable two-factor authentication: Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible to add an extra layer of security to your online accounts. 

Be cautious of public Wi-Fi: Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks for sensitive activities such as online banking, as they may not be secure. 

Educate yourself: Stay informed about the latest phishing techniques and scams. Regularly educate yourself about online security best practices. 

Install reputable security software: Use reputable endpoint detection & response or antivirus software to protect your devices from potential threats. 

By following these practical tips, you can enhance your organization’s online safety and protect yourself from lurking cyber threats. Stay safe online by staying informed, being cautious and adopting good online security practices. Your online safety is in your hands! 

Want to re-evaluate your cybersecurity plan and learn where you might be at risk of a data breach? Take Elevity’s free online Cybersecurity Risk Assessment. Answer a few key questions and you’ll find out your Cyber Risk Score.  Sensitive data at risk

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