Cybercriminals are getting craftier all the time, and phishing scams are more difficult to detect. Therefore, you need to know how to protect yourself against these online threats.

What is Phishing?

A phishing attack is a cybercrime where hackers contact victims through email, social media, or SMS text messages. These attacks are designed to lure victims into providing personal information such as login credentials, bank or credit card details, or other sensitive data that could be used for identity theft.

These attacks work through social engineering and impersonation. Hackers craft clever-looking emails that mimic a legitimate company’s brand using colors, logos, and even links to make it appear safe. Their goal is to gain the recipient’s trust and urge them to click a link or send information. Typically, these emails use scare tactics or urgency to make users click without thinking. If the user clicks the link, they will be taken to a fake website that either infects their device with malware or a phony login form where they enter private information into the hands of hackers.

In 2020, seventy-five percent of companies around the world experienced a phishing attack. Roughly 96% of all phishing attacks come through email. Some other surprising statistics regarding phishing attacks include:

  • 60% of organizations lost data through phishing attacks.
  • 29% of the organizations that suffered phishing attacks were infected by malware.
  • 47% of phishing attack victims were infected with ransomware.
  • 52% had their credentials and passwords compromised by a phishing attack.
  • 18% of organizations experienced financial losses due to phishing attacks.

The FBI mentions that during 2020, phishing attacks were the most common type of cybercrime reported, and that attacks nearly doubled from 2019.

According to Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, 43% of data breaches were caused by phishing attacks.

Phishing attacks can also lead to other types of financial fraud and scams, such as BEC campaigns.

How Does Phishing Lead to BEC (Business Email Compromise) Scams?

Another scam perpetrated by thieves is a BEC scam where criminals send phishing emails and impersonate someone of authority to get a financial representative within the company to transfer money.

Hackers use phishing emails pretending to be the CEO of the company or the corporate attorney. They typically target someone in the finance department and urge them to transfer funds into an account under their control. In addition, they may use bogus invoices and pretend to be an angry vendor who needs payment immediately. On average, a company may lose up to $140,000 due to these types of scams.

Can Phishing Lead to Identity Theft?

One of the worst consequences of phishing scams is identity theft. Many phishing campaigns are designed to steal personal information such as your name, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license number, and other personal details so they can use it to steal your identity.

Once a criminal has your identity, they could potentially open new accounts in your name, charge enormous bills, ruin your credit, obtain loans and financing, rent property, and even commit crimes in your name. The mess left by identity theft can be very challenging to clean up. Not only do victims experience financial losses, but they may also face legal troubles, tax issues, insurance problems, and other side effects from the crime.

Tips and Solutions to Protect Yourself from Getting Scammed

  • Although phishing is a big problem, there are things you can do to keep yourself safe from being scammed. Some tips to stay safe are:
  • Always verify the identity of the sender before trusting the email.
  • Never click links in email or download attachments.
  • Pause before taking any action, especially when you feel “pressured” to act quickly.
  • Be on the lookout for anything that sounds “too good to be true.”
  • Sign up for identity monitoring  to let the professionals keep an eye on your information 24/7.
  • Always use long, strong passwords and never reuse them on multiple websites.
  • Get a copy of your credit report annually and check it for accuracy.
  • Review your monthly bank and credit card statements looking for fraud.
  • Be suspicious of any email that asks for personal information or requests money.
  • Share all personal documents with your personally identifiable information (PII) on them.
  • Turn on spam filtering in your email program.
  • Never share personal information with anyone unsolicited, especially login credentials and bank details.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to learn all about phishing tactics and be on alert. Never take any action before stopping to consider where the email came from, if it is legitimate or not, and what the consequences will be if you do.

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