The line between our online and offline lives is indistinguishable. In these tech-fueled times, our homes, societal well-being, economic prosperity and nation’s security are impacted by the internet. 

Cybersecurity Awareness Month kicks of this month and this year’s theme - “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.” - empowers individuals to own their role in protecting their part of cyberspace. If everyone does their part – implementing stronger security practices, raising community awareness, educating vulnerable audiences – our interconnected world will be safer and more resilient for everyone. 

At a time when we are more connected than ever, being “cyber smart” is of the utmost importance. A first step to being more “cyber smart” is learning to spot phishing attempts. Phishing is when scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information. They may try to steal your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. If they get that information, they could gain access to your email, bank, or other accounts. Scammers launch thousands of phishing attacks like these every day — and they’re often successful. The 2020 Internet Crime Report released by the FBI noted that individuals lost $54 million to phishing schemes last year and business email compromise schemes were the costliest with an adjusted loss of approximately $1.8 billion.  

Scammers often update their tactics, but phishing emails and text messages may look like they’re from a company you know or trust – maybe a bank, credit card company, or social network site. They often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. They may: 

  • say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts 

  • claim there’s a problem with your account or your payment information 

  • say you must confirm some personal information 

  • include a fake invoice 

  • want you to click on a link to make a payment 

  • offer a coupon for free stuff 

If you get an email or a text message that asks you to click on a link or open an attachment, answer this question: Do I have an account with the company or know the person that contacted me? If the answer is “No,” it could be a phishing scam. If the answer is “Yes,” contact the company using a phone number or website you know is real. Don’t use contact information or links in the suspicious email, or open any attachments. 

Last Edited: October 12, 2021