Who are the most at risk of falling to phishing scams? Read on to find out…
If you’ve ever received a random letter about too-good-to-be-true investment opportunities, you have experienced phishing firsthand.
According to multiple resources, phishing has been the number one type of cybercrime in the last few years.
Targeting individuals and businesses, phishing is the most frequent online attack and the most expensive, costing individuals and businesses millions of dollars.
The consequences for businesses are dire – operational halts, financial losses, lost customers, damaged reputation, stolen data, and legal fees. For individuals, falling victim to a phishing scam means losing their money, confidential data, and trust in online safety.
But are all of us at risk of falling into phishing scams? Let’s break it down.
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What Is A Phishing Scam and How Does It Work?
For those who do not know, a phishing scam is a type of cybercrime and a social engineering attack where fraudsters attempt to steal your money or private information by pretending they are someone they are not – your bank, government, NHS, or distant cousin, for instance.
Phishing scams are traditionally conducted via email, but new forms emerge every year. Lately, phishing scammers have been targeting more and more of their victims via SMS and instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp.
So, Who Are The Most At Risk Of Falling Into Phishing Scams?
Regarding cybercrime, ordinary people and small businesses share the same fatal flaw – they believe they are too insignificant to be targeted by malicious actors.
Year after year, statistics confirm that nobody is safe from cyber-attacks.
In a recent study by Office for National Statistics, half of the surveyed adults reported receiving a phishing message in the month before being asked.
It can be cheaper and more effective for cyber criminals to target hundreds of unsuspecting email users than attack a single organization with high-end IT protection.
Who are the most at risk of being targeted by phishing scammers?
According to the report, the most vulnerable individuals are Millennials and Gen-Z internet users – people between 18 and 45 who spend much time unprotected online.
Phishing scams often use big contemporary events as bait. During COVID, many individuals fell victim to phishing scammers posing as NHS. Another hot trend is aimed at online shoppers – “advance fee fraud” and “consumer and retail fraud” have increased by 9% and 57%, respectively.
Many phishing scams target financially unstable individuals and families. In the UK, phishing attackers pretend to be emailing on behalf of government agencies. They promise financial support and tax rebates in exchange for personal information, usually including credit card info.
The most likely sectors to be targeted in the business world are Professional Services, Finance, Mining and Utilities, Manufacturing, and Public Administration. Nobody seems to be safe in terms of organizational size, as scammers attack small, mid-sized, and high-profile businesses.
In 2022, 6 out of 10 mid-sized businesses in the UK have been hit by fraud.
As another consequence of COVID, one of the weakest points of entry for phishing scammers and other cybercriminals are employees who are still working from home. Most of them don’t use encryption for accessing company archives, thus making their employers an easy target.
How To Protect Yourself/Your Business From Phishing?
When facing a tricky enemy such as a phishing scam, the first line of defense is to stay vigilant. In other words, you should learn how to recognize a phishing scam.
If you receive a message containing one of these elements, chances are that you have a phishing email in your inbox:
- A sender is an unknown person, organization, or brand.*
- There’s a suspicious-looking email address, link, or attachment.
- It includes a request for personal info or another unusual request.
- It creates a sense of urgency by setting a deadline.
- The message informs you that you’ve won something valuable.
*The sender can also be a reputable brand or organization, even a government body. In this case, you’ll be able to recognize a phishing scam if you notice something else that is suspicious, such as a spoofed email address or link. But unusual requests are the number one telltale sign.
The best cure against phishing is information. Learn about the red flags of phishing and the quick steps to perform if you click on a fake link.
Furthermore, it is helpful to block robotexts and spam messages to limit the number of phony SMS reaching you.
In addition, cyber safety experts call on individuals and businesses to practice digital security and use precautions. It includes strong passwords, two-factor authentication, regular updates, a firewall, and antivirus.
You should also use a VPN to stay invisible online and minimize risk. A Virtual Private Network encrypts internet traffic, making online activities more private. Furthermore, download VPN apps with additional perks like blocking malicious websites.
Thus, known phishing sites will get automatically blocked. It is also essential for anyone working from home and wishing to protect their activities further.
Phishing scams are everywhere, so it's easier to assume that every email you receive from an unknown sender and address is a potential fraud.
And if you're 100% certain you're dealing with a phishing email, report it and erase it. Never respond to a phishing email.