Beware of scammers – think before you click

A Hacker

Typically, hackers send emails purporting to be from reputable companies or people with the aim of obtaining personal information.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

What you need to know:

  • A common characteristic of phishing attacks is the urgency with which hackers demand action.
  • Stress, social relationships and uncertainty affect people's decisions, so hackers take advantage of these factors.
  • There is nothing more fertile for hackers than uncertainty. The election season is harvest time for them because most people are anxious.

Don't fall victim to phishing scams. Typically, hackers send emails purporting to be from reputable companies or people with the aim of obtaining personal information.

They can also lure their victims by sending links to their social media pages which look innocuous but are a trap. Phishing is a form of hacking that is gaining traction worldwide. 

A common characteristic of phishing attacks is the urgency with which hackers demand action. In phishing attacks, high-stakes events, such as the current election-related news, are often used to lure victims into their traps.

We all know the feeling; that awful sinking in your stomach when you realise you've clicked a link you shouldn't have.

Maybe you were in a hurry or distracted, but you clicked the link anyway. Maybe you received a worrying email about your bank account, a family member, or something of deep significance to you.

For whatever reason, you reacted quickly and clicked a suspect link or gave away personal information only to realise you made a bad decision.

Uncertainty

Stress, social relationships and uncertainty affect people's decisions, so hackers take advantage of these factors.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, phishing has remained a persistent problem. It is estimated that Google alone saw more than 18 million daily email scams regarding Covid-19 at the peak of the pandemic.

There is nothing more fertile for hackers than uncertainty. The election season is harvest time for them because most people are anxious.

During this election season, many people are thirsty for information to calm their nerves. They are browsing and clicking everywhere, thoughtlessly hoping to get information that feeds their craving.

People tend to click on links when they think the information is from a trusted source such as a friend, relative, employer, or business, which is how a hacker exploits their personal relationships.

To accomplish their evil purpose, hackers create accounts that look like credible email addresses for people you are familiar with.

People act without thinking when they receive a telephone call or an email claiming that a family member needs money for medical treatment.

Fear or worry replaces logic, and individuals act without the full force of their intellect. Since these impersonation scams introduce emotion into the decision-making process, they can be quite effective.

Whenever you are faced with a doubtful link, phone call, or email, take a moment to take a deep breath and look for signs of scammers, such as suspicious language or misspelt words.

The urgency of the situation can also add stress to otherwise normal situations, and hackers take advantage of this.

You should be on the lookout for emails, texts, or phone calls that demand money or personal information within a very short window of time. Eschew them.

Mr Wambugu is an informatician. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @Samwambugu2

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