How to spot a phishing scam

Posted at 04/06/14 2:21 PM

MANILA, Philippines - On the internet, nameless, faceless scammers are ready to pounce on any weakness. Not just on the way you spend your money but also on how you use your financial information or access your financial accounts.

These internet criminals can victimize you just by making you do something as harmless as clicking. And they are getting better every minute.

In recent months, information security experts have observed that hacking software and technology have gotten more accessible, cheaper and sophisticated.

As a result, phishing scams using emails from Gmail, Yahoo, banks and social media sites look very official. They no longer have any grammatical errors and the fake links are not that obvious.

Phishing refers to emails that pretend to be from a legitimate company.

How to tell if the email is part of a phishing scam? Here's what to look for:

1. Requests that you click on a bogus link and key in sensitive information.

The link will take you to websites that look like your bank, email service or other companies that you transact with. You will be prompted to type in your PIN, password or other relevant information.

2. Ask you to reply to receive a prize.

A phishing email can also ask you to reply so you can get a prize for a contest that you never even entered.

Other types of emails will tell you that you have received inheritance or significant amounts of money. This includes the very much alive "Nigerian scam email", which unfortunately victimizes people until now.

3. Contains attachments that release malware or trojans.

The email may also contain attachments, which when opened will activate malware or trojans inside your computer.

Malware are viruses that can cause havoc on your machine, while trojans are codes that harvest your sensitive information and send them to hackers.

All of these endanger your finances and makes you vulnerable to identity theft. Hackers can get your money just by a click.

Lately, consumers have been fighting a losing battle for their security, simply because hacking software has gotten cheaper and better.

Other scams

Phishing is now on Facebook, too. Be careful of clicking on forwarded links.

Smishing is similar to phishing but this time, you get SMS on your mobile phone. The messages have a sense of urgency and get you to act fast. If you spend just a little more time thinking about the offer, you can easily see through their ploy.

There are also scams done through voice calls or vhishing. In the Philippines, this is alarmingly common. Be careful of people who call your mobile phone asking for information on any of your accounts or schedule because they are going to deliver a package.

So what do you do to prevent phishing? Be paranoid, be smart and be safe.

Fraudsters constantly change tactics, which means they can go around tools that filter phishing emails.

The best rule is to only give your account details directly to your bank.

Never click on a link from an email even if it looks like an official bank advisory.

Type your bank's URL directly on the browser and check if you are led to a website that begins with "https".

Some victims may be pulled in by scammers because they are greedy. So, don't be greedy. Earn money the right way. Save and invest. Don't depend on bogus contests or lottery.