Something phishy? Don’t take the bait

2016-08-17 06:00
Hendus Venter, African Bank chief information officer offers vital phishing information.

Hendus Venter, African Bank chief information officer offers vital phishing information.

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DESPITE non-stop warnings in the media and reports of people being conned, there are some who still fall for one of the many spams that appear on computers and cellphones. Instead of simply deleting, the spams are opened, so the best thing to do and remember is to just press “delete”.

Hendus Venter, African Bank chief information officer, explains that phishing is when criminals, pretending to be a trustworthy entity, use a form of electronic communication, either SMS or email, to try to extract sensitive information from you. This information can include user names, passwords, credit card details and sometimes, indirectly, money.

Being able to identify a phishing scam is helpful so here are four things you can look out:

• Generic greeting. Phishing emails are usually sent in large batches. To save time, internet criminals use generic names like First Generic Bank Customer so they don't have to type recipients' names out and send emails one by one. If you don't see your name, be suspicious.

• Forged link. Even if a link has a name you recognise somewhere in it, this doesn't mean it links to the real organisation. Roll your mouse over the link and see if it matches what appears in the email. If there is a discrepancy, don't click on the link. Remember websites where it is safe to enter personal information begin with https - the “s” stands for secure. If you don't see https do not proceed. You should also always question the sender, but be careful because hackers can spoof a sender's email address to make the mail look like it comes from someone you know. Some common phishing emails include “you have voice mail, payment and/or invoice notifications, shipment notifications, and flight or hotel booking confirmations.

• Requests personal information. The point of sending phishing emails is to trick you into providing personal information. If you receive an email requesting your personal information, it is probably a phishing attempt. It will ask you to click on a link, open an attachment or provide details of some kind.

• Sense of urgency. Internet criminals want you to provide your personal information “now”. They do this by making you think something has happened that requires you to act fast. The faster they get your information, the faster they can move on to another victim. If the message triggers an emotional reaction such as curiosity or fear, or tries to pressurise you there's a good chance it's a fake.

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