Holidays bring increased buying.

Shopping, especially online like so many of us are doing these days, means phishing time for hackers.

Email scams called phishing are an easy form of cyberattack that supplies everything a hacker needs to steal information to ransack personal and work accounts.

The earliest hackers were known as ‘phreaks’ or ‘phreakers’ from those names came phishing, a modified version of fishing…to steal your private information.

It’s been around since the mid-1990s. Since then, the concept has been tweaked so that everyone from the most brilliant techie to the lowly church mouse is susceptible.

Early attempts to scam came with tell-tale signs like strange spelling, weird formatting, low-res images, and messages that often didn’t make sense. Some remain easy to spot today like a long-lost relative who wants to leave you his fortune.

Most of today‘s scammers are more talented when it comes to creating fake logos making scams extremely difficult to spot. A skilled hacker can disguise emails to look like it’s coming from your friends, family, colleagues, and even your boss.

Emails arrive with subject lines about prizes to entice and catch the eye. Remember, if that email ‘prize’ seems too good to be true, it usually is and it’s likely a hacker phishing for your personal data.

Fake emails from your bank or health care provider are trickier to spot. These come with ‘URGENT’ message subjects designed to panic victims into making an error. Some look convincingly legit…until you check the sender source. Always check the sender’s email address. See how below:

If the email address is not visible, you can hover your mouse over it and see who it’s really from. But, if the email is suspect, you shouldn’t click. Instead, go to your web browser, log into your account, and address the financial or health issue there or call directly.

Sadly, phishing isn’t limited to email. There’s vishing (suspicious phone calls) and smishing (messaging services). Even apps trick a target into what the scammer wants. Phishing is also a popular method for installing trojan malware or ransomware.

As Adrian Monk says in his Monk series, “It’s a jungle out there.” Protect yourself this holiday buying season. Don’t be some hacker’s phish. Watch for scams.

For more advice on how to protect yourself from phishing. This blog post from Microsoft has more great tips.