Phishing means attempts by scammers to obtain other people’s personal data, online bank user identifiers, payment card details or computer and software user identifiers for their own use.

Different kinds of phishing attempts are becoming more common, and new ones occasionally emerge. Phishing is really an umbrella term for various scams: it can take the form of fake police officer scams, technical support scams, imposter websites and many other types of hoax.

It can be quite difficult to recognise attempted scams. Avoiding them requires vigilance and restraint from all of us. However, a few rules of thumb can help you to avoid typical scams, and it’s useful to learn how to spot tell-tale signs of phishing.

How can you recognise phishing?

If an unknown person calls you, appears at your door or sends you an email or an SMS and asks for your personal data, alarm bells should ring.

Banks, the authorities and other trustworthy parties will never ask for your online bank user identifiers or payment card details by phone. In addition, banks never send emails or SMSes with a direct link to their online bank login page. So, never click on an online bank login link received by email or any other link that’s even remotely suspicious.

Scammers often operate very professionally, and many phishing attempts are cleverly forged. It therefore pays to be vigilant. Check the address of the email message’s sender carefully. In a scam email, the sender’s address may look genuine at first glance, but the letter o may have been replaced with the number 0 or .fi with .com in the domain name.

If you decide to open a link included in a message, you should carefully check the address of the page that opens: does the page belong to a real organisation or does it just look like one that does? The same applies to pages found by a search engine (such as Google), as scammers also create imposter websites for search engines.

You can sometimes spot a scam message from poor spelling and grammar or an unusual sending time: a poorly written message is often the hallmark of a scam, and messages sent at odd hours or on public holidays should be treated with particular caution.

If you fall victim to phishing, don’t seize up – take immediate action

If you suspect that scammers have obtained your details or scammed you in another way, contact your bank at once. Push feelings of embarrassment aside and act promptly: anyone can fall victim to a scam.