Staying safe online is getting more important and harder to do. Most of the UK has internet access, and many of us are doing more online than ever before. But cyber security threats are growing too – and phishing scams continue to prove prevalent.
These scams involve tricking people into handing over personal or sensitive information. They’ve been around for decades through tactics like phone and letter scams, but the internet has created new possibilities. Today, phishing attacks are the most common cyber-attacks reported by UK businesses and charities.
That doesn’t mean you’re powerless against cyber threats. Read five smart ways to protect yourself from phishing scams below.
Look out for suspicious signs
Firstly, cybercriminals might be getting smarter, but many phishing scams are still fairly obvious. Common giveaways include grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, or impersonal greetings like ‘Dear customer’.
You might also notice the style and format of an email is different to those you usually receive from a certain company or provider. Check the sender’s address looks legitimate, as this is a telltale sign.
Think before you click
Many phishing scams include tempting links that turn out to be fraudulent or harmful. While it’s totally fine to click on links on trusted websites, you should take more caution with links in random emails or direct messages.
Hovering over a link will tell you the address it will send you to. If you want to be totally safe, visit the company’s website directly instead of using a link.
Use a virtual private network (VPN)
VPNs are great for hiding your identity and personal information, including your email address. But there are many other ways they can keep you safe online, including blocking sketchy websites, pop-ups, and ads.
There are different types of VPN available, including device-specific versions and browser extensions. You could install a free VPN extension for Google Chrome, for example.
Only use secure websites
Secure websites have ‘https’ instead of ‘http’ in their URL address. Many browsers will reinforce this status with a lock symbol. If your browser flags a site as unsecure, you should be wary of sharing sensitive information like credit card details.
You could check a website’s security certificate if you want to feel extra sure that it’s safe.
Be careful with your personal information
Finally, a general rule alongside the tips above is to think carefully about any personal information you share online. If an email, message, or website asks for your information, does it make sense for them to need it?
Most larger companies and providers will have telephone support if you’d prefer to speak to a real person instead.
The internet has made our lives better in lots of ways. Take the steps above to avoid falling victim to a phishing scam while doing what you enjoy.