I’ve Been Phished. What Do I Do Now?

Letter on a hook sitting on a laptop

The odds are you regularly receive legitimate emails from utility companies, subscription services like Hulu or Netflix, delivery services like DoorDash or FedEx, and even your bank or auto insurance provider. Cyber attackers recognize these companies as a great way to sneak into your device or capture your personal information using phishing scams.

Or maybe the dreaded scenario came true for you and you clicked on a link or opened an attachment because it seemed innocent and interesting. As soon as you realize you made a mistake and failed to avoid a phishing attack, don’t panic! There are ways to recover.

What Is a Phishing Scam?

Phishing scams are cyber attacks designed to trick users into giving away sensitive information, such as login credentials or credit card numbers. These attacks often come in the form of emails or messages that appear to be from legitimate sources but are actually from cyber attackers. Phishing scams can also be carried out through phone calls, texts, or social media messages.

Cybercriminals have gotten smarter. They’re no longer emailing you from an obviously made-up business address to trick you into sharing private details. They’re using big-name, sophisticated brands to send out phishing messages. You likely open emails from trusted companies without thinking twice. Here are just a couple of examples:

  • A text message from “USPS” with a link stating they need additional information or payment to deliver a package you’re expecting.
  • An email from “Netflix” stating your account has been locked for suspicious activity and you need to click a link to verify your information.
  • A phone call from someone claiming to be from your bank and asking for personal information to “verify” your account.
  • A social media message from a friend’s account (which has actually been hacked) with a link to click for a free gift card.

I’m Caught. How Do I Recover From Being Phished?

If you’ve been caught in a phishing scam, it’s true—you’re on the “hook.”  But the good news is you can take immediate steps to remediate the damage. Whether you’re on your personal computer or one that’s work-issued, we recommend taking the following steps.

1. Disconnect Your Device From the Network

If you’re using a wired connection, unplug the cable from your computer immediately. If you’re on a wireless connection, open your network settings and disconnect from Wi-Fi. The sooner you disconnect from the internet, the better.

Without an internet connection, the cyber attacker will have a much shorter window of opportunity to access your device or personal information. Quickly disconnecting will also prevent malware from spreading to any other device on the same network.

2. Change Your Passwords

If you’ve clicked a compromised link and entered a username and password, your account is compromised. Go to the real site you know to be affiliated with that account and follow the steps to change your password. 

If you’ve used the same password on any other site or for any other service—change it. Use best practices to set up your new password(s).

3. Run a Virus Scan

On your personal computer, make sure you have anti-virus software installed and updated.  Run a full scan of your system.  If your work-issued computer was involved in the phishing scam, contact your IT team as soon as possible (after you’ve disconnected from the network) so they can scan your device and the network for viruses.

4. Inform the Company

After you’ve done what you can to mitigate damage, reach out to the company that the phishing email appeared to come from.  Let them know what happened so they can investigate.  They’ll look into the breach, warn others of the potential for phishing attacks, and put protective measures in place to prevent future scams associated with their organization.

5. Beware of Identity Theft

If your personal information was accessed, you’ll want to monitor things like account activity and credit reporting. Do an internet search to determine what steps you should take based on the type of information that was stolen. For example, if your credit card number was compromised, contact your bank and request a new card with a different number.

6. Enlist an MSP for the Future

Now that you’ve recovered from being phished, it’s important to take preventative measures so you don’t fall victim again. Consider enlisting the help of a managed service provider (MSP) for your workplace network. MSPs can provide ongoing security monitoring and management, as well as educate you about the newest cyber threats and how to minimize risk.

7. Invest in Cybersecurity

In addition to having a trusted MSP, invest in cybersecurity services and training for yourself and your employees. Cybersecurity software can provide an extra layer of protection against phishing attacks, while employee training can help prevent these types of attacks from being successful.

How to Avoid the Hook in the First Place

No matter what technology you have in place to protect your computer and network, you are the last (and best) line of defense. It’s critical to exercise caution online.

  • Don’t open attachments you aren’t expecting to receive.
  • Don’t click on links unless you know, without a doubt, they’re legitimate.
  • Hover over links to ensure the website matches with the official site of the business sending the message. 
  • Never give out personal information in response to an email or message.
  • Regularly change your passwords and use strong, unique ones for every account.
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest phishing scams and how to recognize them.
  • Anytime you aren’t certain an email is legitimate or a link is secure, pick up the phone, call the sender, and verify it!

Interested in email awareness training for your organization? Safety Net can help—contact us today!