What is a Phishing Scam?

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If you’ve ever researched and compared antivirus software, then you may have read about protection against phishing schemes. What are phishing schemes? And why is it so important to protect yourself against them? Let’s find out.

A phishing scam or phishing scheme is a way of deceiving users into giving out their personal information online. They come in many different forms, and many of today’s phishing scams are incredibly difficult to detect.

The simplest forms of phishing involve sending fake banking emails to real customers asking them to verify their login information. However, more complex phishing scams could involve the creation of an entire website. For example, some websites are built to look exactly like Facebook, which deceives users into entering their email and password. Instead of seeing your Facebook homepage when you login, you’ll be greeted with something else, and the phisher will have already stolen your information. Using your login information, the hacker may try to access your bank accounts, email, or any other important websites that you use.

With social media becoming more popular every year, phishers are increasingly targeting users of Facebook, Twitter, and similar websites in an effort to gain access to their personal data. These scams have a surprisingly high success rate, which is why they continue to grow in popularity year after year.

How do people fall for phishing scams?

You may think that you’re too smart to fall for a phishing scheme, but even the most experienced PC users can become victims. Often, hackers trick users with URL redirection: a link in an email may appear to lead to your bank’s official website, but when you click on it, you’ll be redirected to a hacker’s website that looks remarkably similar to your bank’s official website, if not exactly the same. Since the email looks like an official statement from your bank, the user never has any reason to suspect something is amiss.

To make its detection even more difficult, a phishing scam may use a URL that is very similar to your bank’s URL. If your bank is named BankABC.com, for example, then the phishing scam URL could be TheBankABC.com, or even BankABCx.com. At a cursory glance, this URL will look legitimate, which tricks users into thinking that they can safely input their personal data into the website.

URL redirection is also used in social media phishing. Common Facebook typos may lead users to malicious websites, and if you have ever mistyped ‘Google.com’ into your address bar, then you know how annoying it is to be redirected to some survey site. However, since thousands of people mistype these URLs every day, these phishing schemes continue to be profitable for hackers.

How do I protect myself?

Phishing attempts have steadily increased over the last year, and protecting your computer has never been more important. One of the best ways to do this is to adjust your browsing habits: look closely at the URL before entering any personal information, and use ‘https’ instead of ‘http’ whenever possible (the extra ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’). For example, instead of navigating to http://www.facebook.com, go to https://www.facebook.com. It’s that exact same website, but it offers enhanced user security.

You should also think critically about every email you receive. If something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is, and this adage especially rings true online. Don’t trust emails you receive from your bank, even if they look completely legitimate. If you’re ever unsure, contact your bank using their official telephone number and confirm that they sent out an email.

A good antivirus program will also prevent your PC from falling victim to phishing attacks, and this protection could be the difference between retaining access to your bank accounts or losing access to your funds completely. Take a look at our top 10 antivirus programs listed above to find which one offers the best protection for your needs.

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