How do you avoid cyber scams? Follows these steps if you fall victim to a phishing scam

Online scammers target senior citizens or use accounts that seem reputable to steal your Social Security number

Online scams can be extremely damaging to an individual's finances and steal sensitive information that can be a nightmare to fix. 

In general, phishing scams will appear as innocent requests from online hackers, but if you follow their requests or hand over your Social Security information, then you should immediately contact your bank to ensure they do not open new accounts. 

These scammers tend to target senior citizens and can be difficult to avoid on a daily basis while using the internet. 


What are phishing scams?

Phishing scams regarding the internet refer to tactics by online hackers and scammers to convince an individual to reveal sensitive information regarding their finances or download ransomware viruses onto an individual's computer. These scams can be quite dangerous and may lure individuals through different methods that may appear innocent. 

hacker scamming people online

Online phishing scams often send requests to individuals via email that appear legitimate, but are seeking to steal personal information. (istock / iStock)

Typically, individuals will receive an email that claims to be from a verified corporation, company, government agency or other reputable institution, claiming that an issue requires their immediate attention. These will likely include links that encourage the individual to visit their website in order to resolve the emergency or issue. 

Once the individual clicks on the links provided by the phishing email, it may begin asking them to install software to help resolve the emergency, but in reality, it is trying to install malware on their online device. In other cases, scammers may direct users to a website that appears legitimate and then ask them to provide personal information such as their Social Security number, passwords or other data that can be used to identify an individual. 


How do you avoid cyber scams?

It is important that you follow strict guidelines to avoid falling victim to one of these phishing scams, which can put your finances at risk and steal personal information. In order to avoid falling prey to these scams, never provide your personal information to random requests online, either through email or other forms of communication. Although these requests may appear legitimate, a government or financial institution will usually not contact individuals in that manner.

Phishing scams online with a computer

Never provide your Social Security number or passwords from unsolicited requests online. (istock / iStock)

However, if for some reason you believe that the request is legitimate, always be sure to double-check by directly reaching the financial institution or government agency. Moreover, if the phone number or email does not match the official number or email from the company that is contacting you then it is most likely a scam. Simply block all communication with them or do not respond to their request. 

In addition, on top of refusing to provide your personal information, keep your passwords well-protected and remember to change them occasionally to avoid scammers gaining access to your online account. You can also enable two-step verification to protect your accounts from being hijacked by scammers if they gain access to your password. Finally, regularly review your financial statement to ensure you are not being charged for purchases you have not made yourself.

What should you do when you get scammed?

Suppose you do become a victim of fraud or have fallen prey to these phishing scams. In that case, you should immediately contact your financial institution or bank to alert them of the fraud to ensure that minor financial damage is incurred on your end. You may have to ask your financial institution to place fraud alerts on your account to make it more difficult for these scammers to open new accounts using your identity. 

hacker working on a computer

Immediately contact your financial institution if you believe your information has been compromised or stolen by scammers. (Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images / Getty Images)


You should also reset your passwords for all your devices and accounts, even if they have not been hijacked or taken control of by hackers.