Whether it’s the height of summer, the build-up to Christmas or during a global pandemic, there’s one thing you can be sure will arrive in your inbox, and that’s a phishing scam. Phishing scams vary hugely from the incredibly sophisticated to the downright daft, but their ubiquity means that millions of people every year still get scammed.

So what can you do to protect yourself? Here’s our five-step guide to identifying and steering well clear of phishing scams.

Step 1: Install an anti-phishing toolbar

These days, most internet browsers can be customized by adding an anti-phishing toolbar. They compare the websites you visit against those on lists of well-known phishing sites and alert you immediately if you stumble into malicious territory. Although an anti-phishing toolbar alone will not provide complete protection from phishing scams, it’s a vital first step and is completely free.

Here’s a guide to the best anti-phishing toolbars for Chrome and Firefox.

Step 2: Verify a website’s security

Before supplying any sensitive information online, you should always ensure that the website you are on is secure. This is very simple. On a secure site, the website’s URL, which you’ll see in the address bar at the top of your browser, should begin with ‘https’ and display a closed padlock icon. If you get a message stating that a website is not secure, avoid opening it and certainly do not download any files.

Step 3: Stay up to date with the latest phishing techniques

New phishing scams are being created all the time. As soon as the public grows wise to a certain scam, new, more sophisticated attempts will replace it. The FTA produces regular updates with details of the latest phishing scams and how to recognise them. Knowing what to look out for could help you to avoid falling victim to one. Phishing scams have impacted everyone from major banks, delivery firms, streaming services and many more. Check out this guide from Wonga to see some live examples of what these scams can look actually like ‘in the wild’.

Step 4: Keep your browser up to date

Out of date browsers are one of the more common vulnerabilities phishing scams can exploit. Over time, phishers and other hackers can find and take advantage of the security loopholes in browsers, which is why security patches are regularly released to combat them. If you receive a message saying an update to your browser is available, you should install right away.

Step 5: Install antivirus software

Assistance in the prevention of phishing scams is just one of many reasons why everyone must use antivirus software. Anti-spyware and firewall settings can help to prevent access to malicious files to block attacks, while the antivirus software scans all the files that come to your computer through the internet, identifying those that are malicious and preventing damage to your system.

Have you ever fallen victim to a phishing scam? What was the result? Please share your experiences with our readers in the comments below.