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Understanding Phishing Scams

It’s likely that you’ve heard the term “phishing” in the realm of scams, but what does it really mean? Phishing is when scamming criminals use emails, text messages, or phone calls to trick people into giving up their personal information. As of January 2024, there were 29 million reported phishing scams. This may sound scary, but there are several ways you can spot and avoid phishing scams by understanding how they work.

How Phishing Scams Work

While scammers are always updating their methods of information theft, the most common tactics are sending emails or text messages that lure you into clicking a link or opening an attachment. When you do so, you may get a virus on your device or make your bank details and other personal information vulnerable and available to steal.

The way scammers trick you into doing this is by making their texts or emails appear is if they are from a company, person, or government organization you know or trust, such as a bank, credit card company, utility company, or online payment company like PayPal and Venmo. They’ll even use the likeness of a company in an email, like the logo. They are often very skilled at this level of deception, which is why so many scams are successful. Here are some stories scammers tell to trick you into clicking:

  • There is suspicious activity or unrecognized log-in attempts on one of your accounts
  • There is a problem with your account, or you need to update payment details
  • You need to confirm financial information
  • There is an invoice you need to pay
  • You are eligible for a government refund

What Signs to Be Aware Of

As mentioned, scammers are often good at what they do. But if you keep a keen eye, you can usually identify a phishing scam.

  • Carefully check the sender’s email address. At first glance, it may look like it belongs to the company or organization, but look for unusual number or symbol patterns in the domain (e.g.,
  • Be aware of generic greetings like “Dear user,”
  • Always be wary of links to update any personal or financial information. Legitimate companies will not ask you to update your payment information via a link.
  • There may be a claim of a hold on your account. Instead of following any links, login to the account from the legitimate website or call the company directly.
  • Look for signs of urgency. Scammers often threaten you with fines or other consequences if you don’t respond within a certain timeframe.

How to Protect Yourself Against Phishing Scams

Email spam filters are doing their best to keep phishing emails out of your inbox, but scammers are also doing their best to get past these filters. To give yourself some extra security, consider taking these steps:

  • Ensure that the software on your computer and cell phone are set to update automatically to deal with new security threats.
  • Use multi-factor authentication to login to your accounts. This could be a security question, one-time verification passcode, or biometric login (face or fingerprint recognition). This makes it harder for scammers to get into your accounts if your information is compromised.
  • Never ever provide personal or financial information in response to an email, text, or phone call that was unprompted or was not initiated by you. In fact, you should avoid providing personal information via text or email in general as it’s easier for scammers to find.
  • Back up the data on your computer and cell phone so you can restore it if something happens to your network.

What to Do in the Event of a Phishing Scam

If you suspect a phishing attack but aren’t sure, contact the company that reached out to you via their legitimate website or phone number. If it turns out to be a scam, you should report it immediately. You can do so by contacting the Federal Trade Commission at

If you have any questions about banking and other financial scams, our experts at Republic Bank can help. Give us a call at 800-526-9127 and visit our library of resources for other helpful financial tips.

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