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Watch out for these phishing red flags

Think before you click

"We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click the link below and confirm your identity."

"During our regular verification of accounts, we couldn't verify your information. Please click here to update and verify your information."

"Our records indicate that your account was overcharged. You must call us within 7 days to receive your refund."

If you comply with the messages above, you'll soon be a victim of identity theft. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the one-liners are all common examples of phishing – an illegal cyber activity where a criminal attempts to collect your personal information for fraudulent use.

Verizon's 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report says that consumers open 30% of all phishing emails. That rate is likely to increase now that criminals are finding new and inventive ways to access victim accounts, passwords and other confidential information.

Aaron Higbee, chief technology officer at the phishing research and defense company PhishMe, says that cyber criminals often play into their victims' emotions and use almost genius marketing tactics.

When it comes to the Internet, how can you keep your personal information safe? In addition to using general best practices, you should never open any emails that contain the following kinds of subject lines or messages:

  1. A request to connect on LinkedIn or another social network, from a person you are already connected with or don't know.
  2. A note about your account being overdrawn or a bill overdue from an institution that you don't recognize.
  3. Any email that appears to have "bounced" or says "return to sender."
  4. Anything that's marked or flagged as "extremely important," from an account you don't know.

The bottom line: If you're unsure, don't click.