phishing: How to easily spot one of the biggest online scam and stay safe

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Affordable smartphones coupled with cheapest data rates in the world has made India one of the largest consumers of the internet on mobile. However, digital penetration doesn’t automatically translate to digital literacy.
There’s no denying that there’s a rise in scammers trying to make a quick buck by cheating gullible users– who could be well-educated, founder of a startup or even a first-time smartphone user.
For scammers, phishing happens to be the one of the most popular go-to tools. It offers anonymity, it’s easy, costs less and it is not technically a scam. It simply involves tracking victim behaviour and tricking them into revealing critical personal information. A well-planned phishing scam can even make startups lose their funding money.
Phishing scams may sound sophisticated but it is actually very easy to spot them. If you are attentive and not mindless while clicking whatever you see online, you can make scammers’ lives difficult.
Phishing 101: There are two things you must doubt always
Phishing has two components: a bait, which is a message, and a hook– the malicious URL. Now, the bait or the message can be served via email, WhatsApp message, SMS or any form of electronic message delivery through which the hook or URL can be sent. Now, get into the habit of doubting every URL or message you get.
Any message that you get via email, WhatsApp, SMS that comes with a link should ring alarm bells in your mind. Be it click to login to Facebook or your bank account or click to see this cute abandoned puppy image or click to download this new movie, whenever a message requests you to click on something just don’t do it blindly. Here’s what you should instead.
-Check the sender of the message. If it’s an email, check each letters of the email address to verify whether it’s from the correct sender using the correct domain address and not “Faceboook” instead Facebook or “ICCI Bank” instead of ICICI Bank or “DONOTREPLY[@]incometaxindiafiling[.]gov[.]com” instead of “DONOTREPLY[@]incometaxindiaefiling[.]gov[.]in”.
-If the domain name is incorrect, simply ignore and delete the mail. If the domain name is correct, then right click on the hyperlinked text to copy the URL. Now, paste the copied URL on Notepad to check the domain name and see whether it starts with “https” or not. Even if everything is correct, avoid the link and visit the official website separately and login as you do. Remember, that link which is there on the email is not the end of the world. Using your login credentials on a random link can lead to theft of your login details.
Google recommends, “Don’t reply to suspicious emails, instant messages, or pop-up windows that ask for personal information, like passwords, bank account or credit card numbers, or even your birthday. Even if the message comes from a site you trust, like your bank, never click on the link or send a reply message. It is better to go directly to their website or app to log in to your account. Remember, legitimate sites and services will not send messages requesting that you send passwords or financial information over email.
Phishing 102: Your friend has been compromised
The next level for scammers is to hack your friend’s account– could be WhatsApp, email, Facebook or other–and then try to skim you. If you ever receive a message from your friend that you are otherwise not supposed to receive or the message sounds odd, just pick up the phone and talk to them before responding to the message. One of the most popular scams these days is to impersonate someone and fake an emergency.
For example, you may get a WhatsApp text from your friend’s number asking you to immediately send some money via Paytm as he has met with an accident and needs money for hospitalisation. Just call your friend first before responding or sending money as chances are your friend is fine and someone else is using his WhatsApp account.
Sometimes, your best friend may be the one trying to snoop on you by sending messages like: “Hey, click here to login to your Facebook account to see photos from our school.” If you get excited and click on the link to login, you may be simply giving away your Facebook login details to your friend.
Friends are not always to be trusted when it comes to money. If you get a message like: “Floods have ruined our school. Click here to donate to rebuilding our school”, chances are your friend may simply get access to your bank account. So, question and doubt everything before you click on a link that comes with a message.
Phishing 103: Scammers are always in a hurry and everything is urgent
Google has listed out several “emergencies” that scammers use to get money. If there’s a sudden emergency, calm down and always verify first. Google suggests, “Look out for things like: Urgent requests for money; The person claiming to be stranded in another country; The person saying their phone was stolen and cannot be called.”

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