Use your 5 senses to spot a phishing email

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Phishing is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.” 

Unfortunately, scammers’ favorite phishing tactics often involve banks. In fact, last year, the Bank of the Philippines Islands (BPI) reported taking down “at least 10 phishing sites daily since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.”

Scammers copy the emails that banks normally send out to their clients. They then send these emails containing links to phishing sites to the bank’s clients as well. In the article ““Must-Know Phishing Statistics,” Maddie Rosenthal observed: “Over time, phishing emails have become more and more sophisticated, have targeted larger numbers of people, and have caused more harm to both individuals and organizations.”

That said, you’d have to stay sharp and use all your senses to make sure that you don’t accidentally give your information to scammers via these phishing emails. Take note of the following tips.

Sense of Sight. While phishing emails are crafted to look like they come from your bank, there are crucial details that will give them away. Always take a closer look at the emails that you get.

  • Make sure the sender and the email address used are correct.
  • Do not click on the embedded links that will supposedly help verify your accounts. Block the email sender and report the email.
  • If you’re checking out a bank’s website or you’re about to log on to your online banking account, check the padlock symbol and URL in your browser. 
  • Phishing has spawned a new variant called smishing, a term which combines “SMS” (short message services, better known as texting) and phishing. If you receive text messages warning you about suspicious activity on your account and telling you to click on an embedded link to update or secure your account, ignore the message and block the sender immediately.

Sense of Taste and Smell. While you can’t taste or smell phishing emails in the literal sense, you can certainly be more discerning in the figurative sense. 

  • Scammers often try to lure you into giving your account details by offering you promos or deals that are too sweet to resist. Don’t bite into these unbelievable offers.
  • Be ready to sniff out things that don’t make sense. The scammer may suddenly say that you’ve just won in a raffle or that you’re getting fantastic returns on an investment that you don’t remember making. These smell fishy indeed.

Sense of Hearing. Aside from emails and SMS, scammers may also use phone calls to trick you into giving your OTPs and personal account details. This is called vishing (voice or VoIP phishing). Scammers may use voice email, VoIP, landline or cellular phone for this type of attack.

  • Listen to the spiel made by the scammer. Bank officers often follow specific protocols when they have to call clients and they will certainly never ask you for confidential information over the phone.
  • If the scammer pressures you into giving your password or other critical details, hang up the phone and call your bank branch to report the scam attempt.

Sense of Touch. In real life, we usually try to touch every inch of the things that we want to buy to make sure that there’s no damage. The same principle must be applied when it comes to checking things out online.

  • When visiting a website, grab your mouse and hover the pointer over the link on your browser. Make sure that the URL is exactly the one you intend to visit.
  • Make sure that you don’t accidentally touch your mouse or gadget when you’re exploring a website, especially if you haven’t double checked it yet. Accidental mouse clicks or touchscreen moves may just lead you further into the scammer’s online realm, where hackers can easily exploit your device’s vulnerable points.

You must always pay attention when you’re online — more so when it involves banking transactions. It’s best not to do any banking transactions when you’re distracted or are doing so many other things. One careless click could expose your confidential information to scammers. So, make it a habit to do the following:

1. Monitor your transactions regularly.

2. Stay well informed on the latest scams by listening to the news and public service advisories by your bank. 

3. If you need to use a shared computer, do not save your passwords and type them manually instead. Practice proper log-in and log-out at all times.

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