Mar 18, 2022 / Uncategorized

4 Ways to Spot a Phishing Scam

In the wake of recent world events, the scum, ehr … scammers of the world are out in full force, preying on people’s fears, curiosity, and kindness to make a quick buck. One of the most common and effective ways they do this is through something called phishing.

Phishing (less phriendly and phonetic than actual fishing) is the fraudulent practice of pretending to represent a reputable organization to steal people’s personal and financial information. To help you avoid getting reeled in—hook, line, and sinker—here are 4 ways to spot a phishing scam.

1. Off the Phone Hook and Into the Phrying Pan

Although you shouldn’t ignore the threat of a phony phishing phone call, most people encounter these scams through unsolicited email or text messages. Many of these messages look like the real thing—appearing to come from a bank or business. They may appeal to your sense of charity and contain an unusual request that piques your curiosity, like verifying a recent purchase, withdrawal or deposit. Always be skeptical of any unsolicited and/or unusual text or email request to disclose your personal information.

2. A Phish Out of Water

Some phishing scams succeed by creating a sense of urgency—a dire warning, a threat, or negative tone. They make you feel uncomfortable, frenzied, and out of control. Scammers want you to make a fast, reactionary decision without taking time to think through the situation in full. These messages may impose a time limit or threaten you with action if you fail to respond. If you receive a message that feels threatening—even slightly so, like notice of a past due bill or warning to shut off subscriptions or services—don’t react. Instead, do your research, contact the actual company (never click on a link provided in these messages) and verify the request for yourself.

3. A Real Phish Story

Like their fish story counterparts, phishing messages can sometimes sound too good to be true. Scammers love to tell stories. They may give you a narrative about winning an award (the lottery, a tech device, or some other prize) and provide a link or request a reply to claim it. If a message feels too good to be true, trust your instinct. Again, never respond to these messages or click on provided links. If you’re curious, you can always reach out to the organization to verify the story.

4. Something Smells Phishy

Phishing messages often contain telltale signs, tipping you off to their phony nature. If a message has unusual wording, sounds unfamiliar or unlike the sender, or contains grammar or spelling errors, it’s most likely a scam. You may even notice something slightly askew about the company’s logo or header—it doesn’t look quite as professional as it should. You can also look at the actual sender of the message for warning signs. If an email comes from a public email domain like Gmail or Yahoo, it’s probably not coming from the business itself.

Once again, be skeptical of any unsolicited, unusual request to disclose your personal information. In fact, it’s a good rule of thumb never to disclose personal information via email, phone call or text. Reputable organizations (Utah First included) will never contact you to ask for personal information, account information, passwords, PIN, social security number, or invite you to purchase gift cards to protect your funds—a common scamming practice.

If you receive a suspicious email or text message, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission. You should also email Utah First at [email protected], if you believe your account information has been compromised.