Latest, Trending, Entertainment and Celebrity News

Phishing & Smishing: the Difference & How to Protect Yourself


Among the various data threats faced by today’s consumers, phishing has emerged as a top contender, frequently noted for duping victims with deceptive yet alarmingly simple ploys.

However, terms such as phishing and smishing are often limited to the cybersecurity vocabulary. These concepts are still largely alien to ordinary people.

If you are unfamiliar with these critical scam tactics, this article will get you up to speed and help you understand effective measures to protect yourself against them.

Phishing & Smishing: What Is the Difference?

Phishing is a common technique used in data theft-related fraud, where personal or confidential information is extracted by tricking victims.

For instance, criminals could email you under the guise of your bank, asking you to sign into your account to verify information. For this, they will share a link that takes you to a spoofed log-in page identical to the one provided by the bank.

When you enter your username and password, the scammers will log the information and use it to access your online bank account. After that, they could simply transfer money from your account to theirs.

This is just one example of phishing. Emails, phone calls, social media, and messaging apps can all become vehicles to launch such attacks.

To appear credible in these scams, criminals can imitate reputed organizations, from the IRS and lottery boards to renowned retailers, streaming sites, and other service providers. They can also impersonate those you know, including family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

Smishing is short for SMS phishing. It refers to phishing attacks launched via SMSs. These are generally less elaborate than email or voice phishing and are easier to implement on a mass scale, too. This likely explains their high prevalence.

Examples of smishing include fake package delivery alerts and fraudulent deals and promotions sent via text messages. These SMSs typically contain links that take you to malicious pages to collect your personal data.

What Are the Risks?

Smishing and other phishing attacks are designed to steal information criminals could use to launch financial or identity-related scams.

Identifiable information, such as your first and last name, social security number, date of birth, tax ID, medical data, driver’s license, credit card details, and online account credentials, can be invaluable to con artists.

By exposing any of them to a criminal, you risk facing identity and financial theft. Remember, savvy scammers could commit a variety of fraud using your personal data, targeting you as well as those around you.

For instance, by stealing your email password, a criminal could assume your identity to defraud those in your contact list. Similarly, by getting hold of your tax ID, bad actors could mislead the IRS with fraudulent tax returns.

It is important to note that the information targeted by phishing attacks is not just limited to personal data. It could also include business information, such as financial figures, vendor data, and other sensitive details.

Tips and Tricks for Avoiding Phishing and Smishing

According to Verizon, 36% of data breaches are led by phishing attacks.

The fact is, phishing is not just highly prevalent. Its repercussions could be multi-faceted and far-reaching. Once criminals gain access to identifiable personal data, they can commit a variety of frauds infinite times. They could even sell your information on the dark web, multiplying the risks.

Given the digital ecosystem we live in, preventing phishing may not be practical, at least in the near term. However, avoiding it is certainly possible with adequate safety measures.

Here is what you should know.

Do Not Engage

Phishing attempts often involve unsolicited communications that could catch you off guard. It could be a fake IRS call demanding an overdue tax payment or an email impersonating a social media platform, alerting you to an account hacking attempt.

The use of emotional manipulation tactics that bank on fear, greed, and insecurities is fairly common in phishing scams.

Avoiding rash decisions and hasty action is crucial in such moments.

For instance,

  • Take your time to evaluate the situation and speak to someone you trust for advice.
  • Don’t engage until you have assessed all the information, no matter how urgent things may seem.
  • Refrain from clicking on links shared in emails and SMSs.
  • Never provide your credit card details to strangers.

Verify Before You Act

Criminals could adopt sophisticated technology to disguise themselves and appear familiar.

For example, they can use number spoofing to imitate a local phone number or deploy website spoofing to mimic a well-known e-retailer. With deepfake and AI, they could even recreate someone else’s voice to dupe you.

In instances such as these, verifications will go a long way in protecting you from a phishing scam.

Measures you can take include:

  • Authenticating messages and calls by contacting the relevant individual or organization on their regular number, especially when you are required to share personal information or take some form of action that could potentially jeopardize your information security.
  • Checking online resources such as social media profiles to learn more about callers and message senders you are not familiar with.
  • Reverse searching unknown phone numbers using Nuwber to identify who has called or texted you.
  • Comparing email addresses with verified emails you have previously received from the same organization to ensure a hundred percent match.
  • Looking for typos or phrases and terms in messages that may seem unusual.

Keep Personal Data Secure

To protect your personal information,

  • Practice mindful sharing, both online and in person. For instance, keep identifiable information off social media and other public platforms.
  • Secure your devices and online accounts using password protection. Use multi-factor and biometric authentications to safeguard data in the event of a password breach.
  • Rely on anti-virus software to alert you to potential malware threats that phish for personal information. Avoiding unsafe downloads and websites is also important.

To Conclude

Phishing attacks, including smishing, can expose you to identity theft, financial scams, and other frauds that could risk your safety.

Considering their prevalence, practicing caution is critical for protecting yourself. Remember not to engage when faced with an unsolicited or unexpected message or call. Take a step back, keep your emotions in check, and assess the situation carefully to determine the best course of action.

Don’t forget to verify the message details and its origin before you respond. In addition, be proactive in safeguarding your personal information to prevent unwelcome intrusions and mitigate data threats.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.