Stay alert: Phishing crimes are on the rise

Cybercriminals want your information and can be creative in the ways they try to get you to provide it. Internet-enabled crimes are on the rise and getting harder to spot, so be vigilant and learn how to avoid them.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, the last calendar year saw both the highest number of complaints of internet-based crimes and the highest dollar losses reported since the center was established in May 2000. In a recent year, the center received 467,361 complaints and recorded more than $3.5 billion in losses to individual and business victims. Hackers use email, social media, texts, phone calls, and other forms of communication to steal valuable data.

Phishing attacks are among the most common security challenges that both individuals and organizations face when keeping personal information secure. Phishing is a crime where a cybercriminal sends out a fraudulent communication that appears to come from a legitimate source. The goal of these criminals is to steal sensitive data like log-in information, personal details used to answer security questions, or to get the recipient to click on a link that will install malware on the device.

Four most common types of phishing attacks:

  • Email phishing – a broad approach where the hacker sends the same email to thousands of users requesting to fill in personal details or click on a link that will compromise the device being used.
  • Spear phishing – a personalized approach in which the hacker knows which specific individual or organization they are after, a sophisticated approach that increases the likelihood of the target falling for the trap.
  • Smishing (SMS) – attempts to entice a user into revealing personal information via a link that leads to a phishing website.
  • Vishing (voice) – attempts to obtain personal information about credit cards, banks or even social security numbers with a phone call, usually from a fake number.

Avoid being the victim of a cybercrime by staying vigilant and keeping the following advice in mind:

  • Never give out personal information over the phone. Government agencies like the IRS and banks and credit cards never call asking for personal information. If you get a call, hang up and call the legitimate number for the agency or business.
  • Think before you click. Criminals have gotten more sophisticated about sending emails from addresses that are similar to the legitimate one. If the email asks for personal information or asks you to click on a link to log into your account, make sure you thoroughly check the address.

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