Internet security and software to protect your computer and email gets more sophisticated every day, but they don’t work if you open the door to scammers trying to trick you into revealing sensitive information. These are known as “phishing” attacks. Here are a few tips from Viasat Internet to help you steer clear of them.
Phishing is a common form of internet fraud in which online criminals use email or instant messaging to gain critical personal information, like your Social Security number, usernames and passwords. Typically, a phisher comes in the guise of a trusted relationship — like your bank, internet service provider or even a friend — to lure you into sharing that information. We’ve even had these scammers send them to our customers to look like they came from Viasat.
Such an email might urge you to verify your account or confirm billing information. By clicking on the link or sending the requested identifying information, the phisher can gain access to your accounts.
It’s a good idea to think before clicking on any links, since booby traps abound. Remember it and these other tips, even when you’re opening an email from an address you recognize:
- Instead of clicking on an emailed link, type it into your web browser. You can also usually hover over it to preview the address before clicking. Scammer links often have odd-looking addresses compared to your typical “somewebsite.com” address.
- Avoid filling out emailed forms requesting personal information.
- Only use secure websites for online transactions. These are identified by the lock symbol in the browser window. If you’re still unsure, click on the lock icon to verify the site.
- Look for the letters “https” on a website’s URL. The “s” stands for security, and means any information you send will first be encrypted.
- If a website still seems suspicious, do business the old-fashioned way: Pick up the phone.
- Check your anti-virus software to ascertain it’s up-to-date. Most have automatic updates and upgrades, but take a look to make sure these are occurring.
- Treat your personal email address more like your physical address and only share it with those you trust. If you don’t already have an alternate personal email address, set one up to use for newsletter subscriptions, retailer coupons and notices and other non-personal information.
- If you don’t recognize the sender, don’t respond. Even replying to unsubscribe to spam mail could be a potential set-up for more spam. Label the email as “junk” instead, and check the strength of your spam filter.
- Use a strong password. This is the oldest and most reliable tool we have to stay secure online, and that’s why it bears repeating. Again. And again. Mix numbers, letters and symbols in your password. Then write it down and store all your passwords in a secure location.
Deploying these solutions doesn’t take a lot of time, and if you compare it to the months or even years of hassle you can endure if someone steals your identity, it’s well worth the effort.