How to Prevent Phishing and Other Scams

Crises always bring out the crooks.

This pandemic is no exception.

As we search online for critical information, scammers lurk around every corner, waiting to steal our personal information or install malware on our computers and phones.

How do you prevent phishing and other scams? Here are a few tips to keep the scammers at bay:

Never Click a Link Unless You’re Sure You Can Trust It

Our social media feeds and inboxes are full of links to info about the stimulus package, infection and death rates, promising treatments and other COVID-19 news. When you see a link that interests you, study it before you click it.

On a desktop browser (Chrome, Safari, etc.), you can move your pointer over the link, and the link address (URL) will appear in the bottom corner of your browser. Most installed apps (such as your email program) have similar mouse-over features. If you recognize and trust the URL, click on it. If you recognize the URL, do not click.

Important note: Many businesses use third-party software to send bulk emails. And those systems rewrite the URLs that appear in the emails. In a bulk email, you may not recognize the address. That’s when you decide whether you know and trust the person/organization that sent the email.

Do Not Submit Information Unless You’re Certain You’re on the Right Page

The IRS has a page where you can enter your bank account information to receive direct deposit of your stimulus payment. Scammers have created fake versions of this page. Google and other search engines try to weed out scams like this, but sometimes the scammers stay a step ahead.

In its search results, Google publishes the URL (small fine print) above the blue link. Check that address before you click.

Before you submit account numbers, social security numbers, credit cards, or similar valuable information triple-check that you are on a site you trust.

Trust Your Gut

If it smells rotten, it probably is rotten.

That’s true for milk, eggs and leftover meatloaf. It’s also true for online calls-to-action. If you see an offer that doesn’t seem right, step back. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Here’s a good article from the Federal Trade Commission about how to prevent phishing scams that we found helpful.