How to protect yourself from Phishing, Vishing and Smishing scams

Want to know how to take preventive measures against online and mobile phone fraud? This articles will explain the meaning of phishing, vishing and smishing scams and how you can be protected against being duped by such scames.

The biggest bane, or rather one of the most dangerous aspect I should say , of the advances in technology is getting duped by fraudsters who cheat you of your hard earned money through innocent messages that get information out of you. The messages may be in any form, via an email or an SMS or even through a call on your landline phone. It is essential to be aware, alert and protect yourself from such cheating tactics.

First and foremost, learn the concepts of the 3 main types of fraudulence, namely Phishing, Vishing and Smishing.

What is Phishing?

This concept is known to most. It is a fake way to send you an email in the name of a highly reputed company. The most common are of a bank, generally the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and of the Income Tax Office. You may even get an email supposedly from your own Bank. You will be told that your KYC (Know Your Customer) documents need to be updated or that some information in your bank account is missing and hence must right away provide your full bank account number, your ATM debit/credit card number and your passwords. You will even get a couched 'threat' that your account will be closed if you do not furnish the details right away. I once got an email supposedly from my bank, complete with the bank logo at the top and with the end having a name & designation. Since I am aware of scams, I naturally did not open the link provided supposedly to some form which I needed to fill up. I took a print out of the mail and showed it to the Bank manager, who confirmed it was a fake & not sent by them.

What is Vishing

Ever received a phone call stating that you won a cash reward for spending a specified amount using your credit card? Or been told that you are getting an upgrade on your credit card for being a valuable customer? Or got a call supposedly from the Income Tax office that you are entitled to a tax refund? It is natural to get excited with such news, but be warned – this activity is Vishing! The call can come in on your mobile phone or landline or even via IVR. The aim is to get you to reveal your bank account and credit card details with the passwords.

What is Smishing?

This is a form of Phishing. While Phishing is done via an email, Smishing is done via an SMS to your mobile phone. You will either receive a text message of an MMS (multimedia) message enticing you to click on a hyperlink provided within that message. The minute you click on it, you are effectively downloading a virus into your mobile phone.

Best tips to safeguard against fraud

  1. Be up to date about your bank account: Simply because you are not making frequent transactions or are depending your bank to send you SMS alerts about your account balance, don't assume that everything is hunky-dory. You must be up to date about your bank account and regularly check if there have been any transactions that were not know to you, either debited or credited.

    It is a good idea to update your pass book, even though nowadays most people simply use Net banking and get monthly or quarterly statements via email. There can always be slight technical glitches and errors which you don't really realize as generally we have a tendency to just skim over data in an email. In the case of an actual physical pass book, you will more likely right away sight something wrong in the debit or credit column. Report it to the bank manager immediately.

  2. Do not divulge details: Nobody from the bank will ever ask you for your credit card number or password on the phone or via email. No matter how convincing the person sounds, do not give the details at all. Instead, ask for the person's name and contact number (if you do not have caller ID on your landline or it does not show on your mobile's screen) and say that you will visit the bank branch yourself and provide necessary details if required.

  3. Check the lock: In the eventuality that you absolutely must reveal your credit card details, such as when making an important online transaction, then ensure that it is a secure website or IVR. In the case of a website, look for the symbol of the lock in the extreme left of the browser at the top of your screen (before the beginning of the website URL). Look for this symbol on every page if you are led through a series of steps in the transaction process.

  4. Install reputed Anti-virus software: Keep your browser up to date and secure. Always update your anti-virus software and install very secure firewalls. Make sure that you buy the original and not pirated versions of the software.

  5. Don't click on links: It is always best to type out the bank's website URL in the browser rather than visiting it via a link given to you in an email or SMS message or even via a chat message. That is, it is better to verify it independently rather than through that given link. Even if the URL of the bank is sent by someone known to you, do not click on the link. It is also advisable not to forward such a link to others.

  6. Use a virtual keyboard: Some experts also recommend using the virtual keyboard when accessing your account online and conducting transactions.

The bottomline – better to be safe than sorry!

Article by Vandana
Vandana is based in India with over 15 years experience as a freelance writer. Writing, no doubt, is her primary passion! Having learned the art of blogging from ISC, Vandana is enjoying the thrills of blogging, taking pleasure in sharing information & getting good pageviews at her various blogs.

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