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From Click to Consequence: Understanding Phishing Scams and How to Protect Your Personal Information

From Click to Consequence: Understanding Phishing Scams and How to Protect Your Personal Information Blog Image
Social Media Internet Scams Fraud Blog
By: Bryan Watkinson and Veronica Perez
AVP of Risk Operations and Loss Prevention Supervisor

September 27, 2023

Phishing scams are a pervasive issue that can have severe financial and emotional consequences. According to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), there were 300,497 victims reporting over $52 million in losses due to phishing scams in 2022 alone. This underscores the importance of understanding what phishing is and how to protect yourself from falling victim to these scams.

What is Phishing?

Phishing is a fraudulent practice where scammers send emails, texts, or messages that appear to be from reputable individuals or organizations. The goal is to trick individuals into revealing personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. Phishing can be attempted in many ways:

  • General Phishing: Unsolicited messages that appear to be from a trusted source, asking for personal information.
  • Spear Phishing: Targeted attacks that appear to be from someone the victim knows.
  • Phishing with malware: These scams encourage the victim to click on a link or download an attachment that installs malicious software on their device.

How to Protect Yourself

There are several proactive strategies you can use to avoid falling victim to a phishing scam.

  • Be skeptical of unexpected messages and sharing personal information: Always verify the authenticity of unsolicited messages by independently logging on to the official website or calling a verified telephone number. Never provide personal information unless you are absolutely sure of the recipient's identity and the necessity of sharing such information.
  • Enable multi-factor authentication: multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security by requiring two or more verification methods—a password, a smart card, or a fingerprint, for example. Consider using this feature on apps used to obtain secure information, like credit card and banking account information.
  • Regularly review your accounts: Check your financial statements on a regular basis for unauthorized transactions. If you spot any, report them immediately to your financial institution.
  • Use secure networks: Public Wi-Fi networks are often unsecure. Avoid conducting sensitive transactions when using this type of connection.
  • Change passwords regularly: Aim to update your passwords every three months. Consider using a secure app designed to store passwords rather than keeping them in a document on your phone or personal computer.

Financial and Emotional Impact

Victims of phishing scams can suffer from a range of financial setbacks, including unauthorized transactions, identity theft, and the loss of personal savings. These losses can be devastating, often requiring months or even years to fully recover, financially. The repercussions extend beyond monetary loss, affecting credit scores and potentially leading to legal complications.

The emotional toll can be equally severe. Victims often experience stress and anxiety as they navigate the complexities of reclaiming their identity and financial standing. The experience can be isolating, causing individuals to withdraw from social activities and become overly cautious in their interactions, both online and offline. It may also make some hesitant to engage in online activities that are now essential in our digital age, such as online banking and shopping. It’s important to remember that an instance of any financial fraud can be overcome, with the right mindset and by making the right decisions, with the guidance and support of your trusted financial institution.

Phishing scams are a growing threat, but understanding their complexities and how they operate can go a long way in protecting yourself. Always exercise caution when dealing with unsolicited messages and keep your personal information secure. By taking these precautions, you can significantly reduce the risk of becoming a victim of a phishing scam. Affinity is dedicated to helping its members resolve any unfortunate situations involving their finances. We offer automated fraud alerts and, remember, you can report any suspicious activity to our Member Solutions Hub at 800-325-0808.

This information is for informational purposes only, is intended to provide general guidance, and does not constitute legal, tax, or financial advice. Each person's circumstances are different and may not apply to the specific information provided. You should seek the advice of a financial professional, tax consultant, and/or legal counsel to discuss your specific needs before making any financial or other commitments regarding the matters related to your condition.