What is Phishing?

Cybercriminals use phishing (among other techniques) to con individuals into revealing sensitive information or install malware on their computers. With ever more sophisticated phishing techniques, it’s no wonder identity theft is on the rise. But, there are several easy steps you can take to protect your personal information:

1. Don’t Get Snagged on Email

Ever open an email from a familiar company that looks well, a little phishy? Maybe it’s full of typos or the email domain doesn’t match the supposed sender. Details like this are good reasons to think twice.

As the California Department of Justice warns, even though an email may claim to be from a reputable organization, “scam artists ‘phish’ for victims by pretending to be banks, stores or government agencies.”

Responding to emails like this, or downloading their attachments, could put you at risk for identity theft. When in doubt, delete.

2. Unliking Identity Theft on Social Media

You may have taken online quizzes about your mythical spirit animal or what 80s band best represents your personality. But, according to the Better Business Bureau, many of these seemingly harmless quizzes on social media are used by hackers “to penetrate your social accounts and gain access to your personal information or the information of your friends and family.”

By answering quiz questions like, “What’s the first concert you attended?” and “What was your first pet’s name?” you could be giving cybercriminals clues to your passwords and security questions. By sharing the results, you may be opening the door for your social media network to do the same.

So no matter how much you want to know if you’re a unicorn or a dragon, Journey or Aerosmith, don’t click and definitely don’t share.

3. Popping Pop-Up Scams

There you are, just browsing through the latest memes on your coffee break when suddenly your screen is flooded with pop ups.

“Warning! Your Computer is Infected! Click Here to Download Anti-Malware!”

In a moment of panic, you might be tempted to click. But often these programs are “Trojan Horses” that could give cybercriminals access to your hard drive, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Worse, some companies charge hundreds of dollars to remove the malware they put there in the first place, says the Federal Trade Commission.

If you’re in doubt, ask a family member, friend, or neighbor if they’ve encountered a similar pop-up. Chances are they have and sharing information is always the first step to preventing identity theft.

Smishing (SMS phishing) is equally dangerous with scammers sending texts like “Call Now to Reactivate Your Credit Card” or “Text Back to Receive Your Free Gaming System,” when the real intent is to gather bank, credit card, and debit card information. 

So be wary of unknown callers and texters. If you’re unsure, a quick internet search of the phone number may reveal some information about whoever is contacting you.

4. What Can You Do?

The most important step is to stay vigilant and think twice before sharing information on the internet or over the phone. But cybercriminals can catch even the most careful consumers off guard.

In these cases, Discover Identity Theft Protection can help with added protection by scanning thousands of risky websites for your personal information, monitoring all 3 credit bureaus for key changes1, and more to see if your information is out there. With 100 percent US based customer service and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance2, Discover has you covered when you need it most.

Discover offers Discover Identity Theft Protection for a minimal fee of just $15 per month.

Published August 30, 2019

Updated January 27, 2021


Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

Identity Theft Protection:

  1. This product can only be agreed upon, purchased and delivered online. It is optional and voluntary. Full terms and conditions
  2. Key changes include: New accounts, credit inquiries, address changes, potentially negative information such as delinquencies, new public records
  3. Identity Theft Insurance is underwritten by insurance company subsidiaries or affiliates of American International Group, Inc. (AIG). 175 Water Street, New York, New York 10038. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.