How To: Avoid Online Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are designed to rip-off a user’s personal information – such as login, password or account numbers – and then ultimately use that information to steal your money or identity.

Phishing scams may come in the form of fraudulent emails, text messages or copycat websites. Scammers may spoof a valid company or a familiar person, with the intent to give you a false sense of security. Once you input your personal information, the scammer can gain access to your online accounts.

This type of scamming may also be used to infect a computer with ransomware. See our Tech Tip: 5 Tips to Protect You From Ransomware

What can you do?

  • Be cautious when clicking. When opening emails, look at the sender to ensure it’s someone you know. When visiting websites, be weary of links that you click on. (TIP: A sensational headline is often click-bait and may be a phishing scam.)
  • Follow up via phone. If you receive an email from a company you do business with that is asking for personal or financial information, take a minute to pick up the phone and call to verify its legitimacy. Make sure you look up the phone number instead of dialing any provided in the email!
  • Use unique passwords. Do you use the same password for all of your accounts? Over half of internet users utilize the same password for all of their online profiles, which makes phishing an effective tactic for cyber criminals to access multiple private accounts. See our Tech Tip: What Makes a Strong Password?
  • Keep your device security up-to-date. Maintain a strong firewall and current antivirus software. Click to learn more about anti-virus and firewall protection from Blackfoot.
  • Backup your files regularly! To protect yourself against ransomware or viruses, back up your important files to an alternative location on a regular basis. Click to learn more about personal data backup from Blackfoot. 
  • Report phishing scams. The Federal Trade Commission is constantly working to protect consumers from scams. If you’re the victim of a scam, please report it at: FTC.gov/complaint