How to Recognize and Avoid Phishing Scams 

Cybersecurity scams continue to be on the rise. As scammers get smarter, it’s important to stay up to date on the latest trends. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to be able to recognize the signs of a potential phishing scam and how to avoid them. 

How To Recognize Phishing 

Scammers use email or text messages to trick people into trying to steal passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. If they get that information, they could get access to your email, bank, or other important accounts. Worse yet, they could sell that information to other scammers. Keep in mind that scammers launch thousands of phishing attacks like these every day – and they’re often successful. 

Scammers update their tactics often to keep up with the latest news or trends, but almost all their messages share some of these common tactics: 

Phishing emails and text messages often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. You might get an unexpected email or text message that looks like it’s from a company you know or trust, like a bank or credit card or utility company. Or maybe it’s from an online payment website or app. The message could be from a scammer, who might… 

  • Say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts – they haven’t 
  • Claim there’s a problem with your account or payment information – there isn’t 
  • Say you need to confirm some personal or financial information – you don’t 
  • Include an invoice you don’t recognize – it’s fake 
  • Want you to click on a link to make a payment – but the link has malware 
  • Say you’re eligible to register for a government refund – it’s a scam 
  • Offer a coupon for free stuff – it’s not real 

How To Protect Yourself from Phishing Attacks 

 Your personal email spam filters might keep many phishing emails out of your inbox. But scammers are always trying to outsmart spam filters, so extra layers of protection can help. 

Four ways to help protect yourself from phishing attacks at home 

  1.  Protect your personal computer by using security software. Set the software to update automatically so it will deal with any new security threats. 
  1. Protect your personal cell phone by setting software to update automatically. These updates could give you critical protection against emerging security threats. 
  1. Protect your personal accounts by using multi-factor authentication (MFA). Some accounts offer extra security by requiring two or more credentials to log in to your account. This is called multi-factor authentication. The extra credentials you need to log in to your account fall into three categories: 
  • Something you know – like a passcode, PIN, or the answer to a security question 
  • Something you have – like a one-time password (OTP) you get by text, email, or from an authenticator app 
  • Something you are – like a scan of your fingerprint, your retina, or your face 

 Multi-factor authentication makes it harder for scammers to log in to your accounts if they do get your username and password. 

  1.  Protect your personal data by backing it up. Back up the data on your computer to an external hard drive or in the cloud. Back up the data on your phone, too. 

What To Do if You Suspect a Phishing Attack 

If you get an email or a text message that asks you to click on a link or open an attachment, answer this question first: 

 “Do I have an account with the company or know the person who contacted me?” 

If the answer is “No”, it could be a phishing scam. Go back and review the section that covers signs of a phishing scam. If you detect them, report the message, and then delete it. 

If the answer is “Yes”, contact the company using a phone number or website that *you know is real*. Do not use the information provided in the email. Attachments and links might install harmful malware. 

What To Do if You Responded to a Phishing Email 

If you think a scammer has your information, like your Social Security, credit card, or bank account number, go to There you’ll find specific steps to take based on the information that you believe to be compromised. 

How to Report Phishing 

If you received a phishing email or text message, report it. The information you provide helps fight scammers. 

  • If you receive a phishing text message, forward it to SPAM (7726) 

Remember, when in doubt, check it out.  

To learn more about cybersecurity coverage and how Rural Mutual can protect you, reach out to a local agent.