Everyone has had the displeasure of receiving an email or phone call from a person or organization that is claiming to represent Apple, Microsoft, or any other company that you may have an account with. I have been contacted by someone claiming to be Microsoft and insisting that I had a virus on my computer, and they needed to take remote control of my computer in order to remove it. Phone calls like that are almost always scams.
They are trying to get you to pay for their assistance, or they want to acquire your personal information.
Sometimes it is easy to identify when one of these communication attempts are fake and just phishing for your information, but other times it can be quite convincing. So, how do you identify if you are dealing with a phishing attempt or scam?
#1 – The real deal will never contact you and ask for your password
Real tech companies will not ask you for your password. This is one way to easily identify a scam. If they call or email you and immediately ask for your password, do not trust them. If you are contacted by someone who claims that they need your password because something is wrong with one of your accounts, do not give them your password. This is a scam
#2 – Check the URL/Web Address
There is a scam going around right now centered around iCloud. The email states that your iCloud account is “restricted in order to safeguard your information”. It then directs you to click on a link and “sign in” with your iCloud account to correct the problem. Double check the web address. The link in the email will almost always be disguised to look legitimate. However, once the link is open in your browser you can check the address by looking at your address bar in your browser. If the address is not from the companies official website then it is a scam. Use your judgement when reading the email, if you can avoid clicking the link at all then that is the safest option.
#3 – Use a safe Internet Browser, anti-phishing extension, and AdBlocker
Use a safe internet browser such as Google Chrome and install both a good AdBlocker extension such as uBlock Origin and a good anti-phishing extension such as Netcraft or the Chrome extension that comes with the 360 Total Security Anti-Virus program.
I talk 360 Total Security in my Anti-Virus newsletter which can be viewed here here.
I wrote a newsletter about Internet Browsers and Safety a while back, which you can read here.
#4 – Be aware of scare tactics
As I stated above, many phishing emails and phone calls that you receive will tell you that your computer or account is at risk. However, it is very unlikely that your computer or account is in such a state that you would need to act that instant. Take a minute and go to the companies website and contact them directly about the issue, and see if the email or phone call was legitimate.
#5 – Never submit personal information in a form that is embedded in an email
Submitting personal information in a form that is embedded in an email is never a good idea. You have no way of knowing where that form will send your information. Emails from legitimate sources will always send you to their own official website when asking for information from you.
#6 – Lastly, be careful and always double check
If you are questioning an email or phone call that you’ve received then it is always a good idea to double check. Check the email address or phone number against the companies contact information, contact the company directly, or contact me and I can help you assess the situation. As always, trust your instincts.
Ultimately, just be wary of anyone asking for your passwords and personal information. If an account of yours is actually in jeopardy then you will likely be able to log in on the official website and fix the issue from there. You will not lose out an on opportunity to fix your account if you do not act immediately on that email or phone call. As I stated earlier, if you get an email or call about your computer having a virus, this is almost certainly a scam. Apple, Microsoft, and legitimate Anti-Virus companies will not contact you about your computer having a virus.