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Phishing Scams: Why a Natural Disaster Puts You at a Higher Risk

By: Brayden McMillan

phishing scams

Hurricane Harvey as well as Hurricane Irma have devastated much of Texas, Florida, and the surrounding areas with massive amounts of flooding. Many people are headed to the area to salvage anything possible and rescue anyone stuck in the wake of the recent paths of destruction. Charities, as well as many independent sources, are taking donations to help with the relief effort. These natural disasters have been publicized on almost every major news station across the country because of their devastation.

With so many people aware of the destruction, as well as the relief efforts, you should start to watch out for scams related to the event.

 Attackers take advantage of widespread disasters like this and pose as charities or benefits aiding in the relief effort. A would-be attacker could send a mass email stating they are part of the Red Cross and would appreciate any donations that could be made to support the cause. You should be wary of any email scams related to the disaster, or any other widely publicized event. Many fake emails will look real and can trick even the most tech savvy user. You should look out for anything containing hyperlinks, attachments, or instructions to reply with personal information. A good rule of thumb is never to download an attachment, reply to an email, unsubscribe, or click a hyperlink unless you can 100% verify the sender. 

Click here to read How to Avoid Phishing Scams, Employees Must Be Prepared

You are almost guaranteed to come across phishing emails, so you should know how to protect yourself from them. Any email that asks for personal information should be carefully observed. If the sender cannot be verified, it is most likely just a phishing email that can be deleted. Never respond to a suspicious email as this can confirm to an attacker that your email is valid and that you are actively using it. This can lead to further attacks from this sender to your email. Natural disasters and widely publicized events can pose a significant advantage for attackers. Phishing emails related to these activities appeal to our sense of compassion for others in need, and attackers know this. You are more likely to click on an attachment or hyperlink within an email if its suggested nature is to help someone in need. This is why you need to be extremely cautious with emails related to these disasters in particular. 

Just as you exercise caution when opening emails that look very suspicious, you should do the same with any emails related to Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma. If you feel compelled to donate to organizations that are helping in the relief efforts, you should visit their website and donate there. By doing this, you can almost eliminate your chances of being compromised by an email related to the disaster.

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