Here's How You Can Outsmart a Phone Scammer

They're getting smarter so be warned.

gcash phishing
PHOTO BY L: Shutterstock; R: Courtesy of GCash

(SPOT.ph) Raise your hand if your phone has been flooded with text messages using bad grammar asking for personal details or if you've been subject to "official" phone calls from your bank. Annoying right? We've all been there and we feel you.

With everything being readily available online, shopping has never been this easy as all it needs is a simple click or tap of a button. In fact, mobile wallets (a concept very few have heard of pre-pandemic) helped accelerate e-commerce in the Philippines. But be warned, dear Spotters, as with easy shopping comes easy phishing. Quick recap: In a primer published by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, phishing is described as an illegal act to obtain your personal information by means of various methods.

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Phishing has become pretty common. Here are different ways you can outsmart the scammer:

Spear Phishing

spear phishing
PHOTO BY Unsplash.com

Just like how you would deliberately spear a fish, spear phishing is targetted towards a specific individual instead of a mass e-mail blast that is common with the general phishing. Scammers that utilize this method often select a group of individuals that have something in common, say, a university or company e-mail account wherein they replicate the look and feel of the organization's communication. Usual victims of spear phishing are individuals who regularly deal with people outside of an organization and have access to confidential data such as personal information of others.

To prevent such attacks from happening to you, regularly change your password (at least every three months!) and double check the sender's e-mail address for authenticity before clicking on any attachment or link sent to your inbox. If it still looks fishy, send it immediately to your organization's IT department for investigation.

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Pharming

pharming
PHOTO BY Pixabay.com

If you've fallen victim to the above-mentioned spear phishing, chances are the next type of attack would be pharming.  But how can that happen? Well, you might have accidentally clicked or opened a link that automatically installs a code in your computer or server. In fact, because clicking a link online seems harmless, pharming is more dangerous than other phising attempts since people are less inclined to triple check a website they've visited a million times such as your bank's log-in page. 

To stop this from happening to you, always check the website's URL that can be found in the address bar of your preferred browser. If the address starts with an "http" instead of an "https," consider this a red flag and exit immediately. Be sure to enter personal information only in verified websites that have "https" in their address as the "s" stands for secure and will most likely be accompanied by an icon of a closed padlock. 

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Vishing

vishing
PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK

You most likely have encountered this at least once or twice recently. Vishing—the act of using telecommunication lines and pretending to be from an official establishment in order to gain personal infromation via phone callsis more common than you think. Typically targetting individuals with credit cards or loans, this scam starts off seemingly innocent with carefully crafted spiels to make it sound like the individual on the line is legitimate and genuinely concerned for your financial welfare. However, as phone calls are harder to determine in terms of authenticty, be extra cautious as the call may in fact be coming from your bank.

In the not-so-rare instance that you do get a fishy phone call, think before you speak. If possible, avoid providing any personal or sensitive information and if they really are insistent, imply that you will verify the information with your financial institution first. It also helps if you block the number post-call.

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SMiShing

smishing
PHOTO Courtesy of GCash

Remember that time when everyone received a ton of job offers via text? Or what about those instances when you'd receive "official" text messages from your bank when it's clear that an unknown number is the culprit? Those little love notes from unknown numbers are actually SMiShing attempts. Yes, the name sounds weird, we know.

SMiShing occurs when you receive that annoying spam message asking your to provide your personal information (yes, One Time Passwords or OTPs count as well) by replying to the message or a specific number. How can they get my number though? Well, there are a lot of ways to do so—newsletter signups, online shopping, contract tracing forms, and more. 

Given this digital age where  mobile numbers are easy to obtain, it may be difficult to completely eliminate the spammy messages from entering your inbox. But as a precaution, always check where the message is coming from and if it is valid. If you're dealing with money using a mobile wallet like GCash, be aware of the official channels where they send their access codes such as One Time Passwords or OTPs that can confirm your identity and proceed with your planned transaction.

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