October 2, 2023

Spotting Phishing: Don’t Take the Bait

In today’s digital age, communication has become faster and more convenient. From emails to text messages to social media, digital communication has revolutionized how we connect and interact. It has made staying in touch with loved ones, conducting business transactions, and accessing important information easier. However, with the rise of digital communication, there has also been an increase in phishing attacks.

Phishing attacks often employ manipulative tactics to trick individuals into disclosing confidential material, such as financial information and important passwords or convincing an individual to complete specific tasks, like wire transfers or downloading malware. These attacks can compromise personal and sensitive information, leading to financial loss and identity theft. It’s essential to be aware of these threats and take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves while still enjoying the benefits of digital communication.

To better understand phishing attacks and how to continue to enjoy the perks of digital communication while staying safe and vigilant, we brought in resident expert and BetterLife Network Administrator, Dave Maffet, to further explore this topic.

Phishing For Questions & Answers

BetterLife’s own resident expert, Dave Maffet (D.M.), shares answers to common questions, along with tips for safely navigating today’s digital landscape and avoiding potentially dangerous phishing attacks. 

Q. What is phishing?

D.M. Phishing is when cybercriminals, or “bad actors,” send legitimate-looking emails or texts pretending to be a reputable company, organization, or individual in an attempt to gain access to your personal information for their own financial gain. These attacks are not limited to email or text; they can also happen on social media.

Q. How does phishing work?

D.M. Phishing attempts use social engineering, or psychological manipulation, to deceive individuals into divulging sensitive information. Manipulation tactics can involve an urgent deadline from a boss, an intimidating notice from the IRS, or a startling plea for help from a friend or family member. These phishing schemes use the power of psychological manipulation to provoke a quick and thoughtless reaction in the attacker’s favor.

Q. Is phishing a virus or malware?

D.M. The only real defense against phishing is being smart with your clicking. Phishing is not a virus or malware. While a phishing attempt might want you to click on a link to get your personal information, it could also route you to a site to download a virus, malware, or ransomware.

Q. What are the most common things to look for when identifying phishing attempts?

D.M. 1. You did not win anything you did not enter. If you get an email or text saying you won but never entered a contest, delete it.

2. If it seems too good to be true, it is.

3. Look for misspelled words in messages. Often these “bad actors” are overseas and attempting to communicate in another language. Due to this, sometimes they’ll use terms like “you” instead of “your” and other noticeable grammatical errors.

4. Always look at the email address from which the email was sent. It might be a name you recognize, but be sure to look closely at the address and name. If the email is from the president of your company or a reputable organization, but is coming from a Gmail account, or the name is misspelled, delete it (see example below).

Example: An email with sender info@Arnazon.com (using r and n to look like an m), or JonDoePresident@gmail.com (The president’s name from @gmail versus the company email.)

Q. What are the top precautions that can be taken to avoid phishing attempts?

D.M. You can’t prevent the “bad actors” from sending emails, texts, or putting links on social media. What you can do is think before you click. If you are unsure if an email is legit, start a new email to the sender to confirm they emailed you, versus replying directly to a potential “bad actor.”

Q. Why is it essential to take precautions against phishing attempts?

D.M. Taking the appropriate precautions to avoid phishing attacks can protect your entire family. Just like having life insurance can protect your family’s financial future, being vigilant online can preserve the money your family has from being stolen.

The rise of digital communication has undoubtedly made our lives easier and more connected. We can protect ourselves and our families by following simple steps such as verifying the sender’s identity, not clicking on suspicious links, and taking extra precautions in instances of suspicion. However, it’s important to be mindful of phishing and understand that attacks can compromise our personal and sensitive information. It’s up to us to take responsibility for our online safety and remain vigilant while enjoying the benefits of digital communication.