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Going online even just to check your email can be risky these days thanks to phishing scams. Cyber criminals are getting incredibly smart at finding ways to get to your personal information, often without you realizing that something isn’t right.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), thousands of phishing scams are launched every day, increasing the chances of you or someone you care about becoming a victim. But the sheer number of programs out there raises an important question: Are phishing scams illegal? The answer is a bit complicated.
One thing is clear: you need reliable methods to protect yourself and your sensitive information.
Software like Malwarebytes Premium can help. It provides continuous protection against online threats including phishing, ransomware and viruses before they can reach your devices. Malwarebytes Premium also indicates when you have accidentally landed on a malicious website to protect you and your privacy.
Here’s what you need to know about phishing scams, whether they’re illegal, and how to protect yourself.
What are Phishing Scams?
Phishing scams are online schemes where a cyber criminal usually impersonates a reputable party you trust, such as your bank or online streaming service, and tries to trick you into revealing your personal information, Joseph Steinberg, cybersecurity expert and advisor on emerging technologies, tells Yahoo Life.
These criminals often try to trick you into clicking a link or opening an attachment that they will then use to steal your personal information. Phishing scams can come in the form of text messages or emails, the FTC says, and they will often say one or more of the following:
They have noticed suspicious activity or login attempts on your account
They claim there is a problem with your account or your payment details
They say you need to confirm certain personal information
They contain a false invoice
They encourage you to click on a link to make a payment
They say you are eligible to register for a government refund
They offer a coupon for free food?
“Due to advancements in graphics, the use of automation for phishing attacks, and the fact that phishing ransomware has become highly profitable for cybercriminals, email phishing scams are an almost daily occurrence for most users,” tech and cybersecurity expert Chuck Brooks, president of Brooks Consulting International, tells Yahoo Life. “Unfortunately, with the number of attacks and sophistication of attacks, everyone is a target and phishing attacks are not always easy to detect.”
Are Phishing Scams Illegal?
Here it gets a little tricky. “In most cases, sending a single phishing message is not in itself explicitly prohibited by federal criminal law,” Steinberg says. “However, there are multiple criminal laws that apply to almost all cases of phishing, whether it involves stealing money, data or identities.”
For example, when prosecutors charge someone who has committed a phishing scam over the Internet, they usually cite federal fraud laws, Steinberg explains. “Of course, depending on the specifics of a phishing scam scenario, state laws may also apply, as well as laws of jurisdictions outside the United States,” he says.
What to do if you think you are the victim of a phishing scam?
If you think or know that you have been the victim of a phishing scam and you believe that a scammer has important information such as your Social Security number, credit card number, or bank account information, please visit IdentityTheft.gov and follow the steps based on the information you believe was stolen.
If you believe you clicked a link or opened an attachment that downloaded malicious software onto your device, the FTC recommends updating your computer’s security software and running a scan.
Install cybersecurity software such as: Malwarebytes Premium can also help by providing an extra layer of protection – and the software can prevent you from falling victim to a phishing scam in the first place. It is important to protect your personal information online to avoid getting into a bad situation.
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