Fear is a basic emotion. It is a primal instinct that served us as cave dwellers and still serves us today. Nothing makes us more uncomfortable than fear and there are so many times we experience fear: fear of pain, disease, injury, failure, not being accepted, missing an opportunity, and being scammed to name a few.

Phishing is the act of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. No one knows fear as a motivator better than phishers. In order to elicit action from you, phishers often use fear tactics. Here are 3 commonly used fear motivators:

1. Fear of Financial Loss – Of all the things that scare us, financial loss can seem like the most terrifying. The psychological impact of losing money is thought to be twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining. When an e-mail comes in warning us of hacking dangers from a current internet bug, many people will act on their strong impulse to protect themselves financially. The fear of loss coupled with confusing computer jargon is enough to spur many people into misinformed action.

2. Fear of Personal Loss – People who have had homes burglarized report feeling violated and invaded. It’s no different with your identity. Your identity is as personal as it gets. If yours is stolen, even if the thief uses it for non-financial gain, it is still a violation for the victim.  Phishers can use your details to gain control of your computer and use it to carry out further malicious activity. They can also use your e-mail address and password to create online bank accounts

3. Fear of Missing Out – The use of intrigue is another common way phishers can attack. They may send a malicious payload inside a link that might read “Great pictures of your kids this weekend.” Of course, we all like great pictures of our kids and fear that we might miss something spectacular. By clicking on the attachment, your computer may become infected.  The same is true of “great deals” or “one-time-only-too-good-to-be-true” offers. Nobody wants to miss a great deal so all too often we will click the link for more information. Again, all it takes is one click for your computer to be directly infected.

Many times phishing e-mails appear to come from a reputable organization, but keep in mind legitimate organizations would never request the following information through an e-mail:

  • Credit Card Number
  • Social Security Number
  • Account Number
  • Password

In order for Internet criminals to successfully phish your personal information, they must get you to go from an e-mail to a website. Phishing e-mails will almost always advise you to click a link that takes you to a site where your personal information is then requested.

Before you react to a scary e-mail, double check to be certain it’s not a scam. If you have any suspicions, call the company directly to confirm the request. If a strange e-mail comes from what looks to be like a close friend, check with that person first before opening it.

We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them. Take some time to practice safe surfing and research identity theft and phishing so you’re better able to spot and avoid a phishing scam.

Have additional questions? Contact Bankers Insurance Group.

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