August 31, 2020

Prevent scamsters from hacking your computer. Be on the lookout for phishing.

In its basic form, phishing scams refer to electronic messages (such as e-mails) being sent to unsuspecting people pretending to be from a reputable entity (company or institution). The electronic message will generally require a person to click on a link that will take them to a website where personal information (such as a username, password or credit card details) is required to be completed.

The people sending these electronic messages aim to “fish” for personal information of a person and to illegally use it at a later stage (for example, to obtain a fraudulent loan or to gain access to a person's bank account and so on).

Once a person has fallen victim of a phishing scam, it can be difficult to trace the fraudsters behind the scam and to resolve the consequences that might have occurred from the scam. For example, if banking details were obtained and the fraudsters withdraw money from a person's bank account, it would be difficult to get the details of the fraudsters in order to lay fraud charges against them and to claim the money back. It is, therefore, vital for a person to be cautious and to try and avoid falling victim of a phishing scam.

It might be difficult to establish whether an electronic message is part of a phishing scam or not, however, the following are some examples that a person should look out for:

>     Unfamiliarity: Take a moment to think about whether the electronic communication from the mentioned entity is expected or likely to be received.

  >   Different companies or institutions: If an e-mail is received, compare the actual e-mail address from where it was sent with the rest of the details in the e-mail. The contents of the e-mail might reflect that it is sent from “ABC Company”, but the e-mail address might show johndoe@XYZCompany.

 >    Strange e-mail address: The e-mail address might have a different spelling or strange format, for example, it might not end in the usual domain of .com or .co.za. Or the name of the company or institution might be spelled differently in the e-mail address to try and fool the receiver to believe that it is valid.

>     Personal information: Be cautious if personal information is requested in the body of the electronic message.

>     Contact details: Validate and confirm contact details provided in the electronic message by comparing it with the contact details on the website of the entity.

>     Spelling and layout: The contents of the electronic message might look odd with a strange layout and spelling errors.

If a person is suspicious of an electronic message received, s/he must rather avoid opening it or following the instructions contained therein. Contact the relevant entity to confirm the validity of the electronic message received and request to speak with the person who allegedly sent this message. This exercise will confirm whether that person is employed by the entity and it will also ensure that the entity becomes aware of any possible phishing scams that may be making the rounds with their names associated with it. 

In light of the above, a person should be careful when being requested to provide personal information and should take the necessary precautions to avoid any fraudulent transactions being made in his/her name. As the saying goes: “prevention is better than cure”.