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Recognizing and Avoiding Phishing Scams

Phishing is a scam technique where scammers pretend to be a legitimate organization, like a trusted company or your bank, in order to trick you into giving them personal or account information. If they succeed in getting that information, they can use it to access your bank and other accounts.
 
The Federal Trade Commission provides the following information on how to recognize and avoid phishing scams, and how to report them if you've fallen victim to a scam.

How to Recognize Phishing

Phishing refers to scammers pretending to be a legitimate organization, like your bank, in order to trick you into giving them your account information. If they succeed in getting your personal info, they can use that to access your bank account.

Phishing messages are designed to look like an email from a trusted company. The scammer may copy the bank logo or other company information to trick you into thinking the email is legitimate.

Scammers come up with a story to trick you into opening a link or an attachment. The message may

  • Say there has been suspicious activity on your account
  • Claim there’s a problem with your account or information
  • Say you need to confirm some personal information
  • Include a fake invoice
  • Ask you to click on a link to make a payment
  • Say you’re eligible to register for a government refund
  • Offer a coupon for free stuff.

How to Protect Yourself From Phishing Attacks

Email spam filters are designed to prevent phishing emails from getting to your inbox, but scammers are always trying to outsmart the email filters. Here are some things you can do today to protect yourself:

  • Protect your computer by using security software. Set the software to update automatically so it can deal with any new security threats.
  • Protect your mobile phone by setting software to update automatically. These updates could give you critical protection against security threats.
  • Protect your accounts by using multi-factor authentication. Some accounts offer extra security by requiring two or more credentials to log in to your account. This is called multi-factor authentication. The additional credentials you need to log into your account fall into two categories
    • Something you have – like a passcode you get via text message or an authentication app
    • Something you are – like a scan of your fingerprint, your retina, or your face

Multi-factor authentication makes it harder for scammers to log into your account if they do get your username and password.

  • Protect your data by backing it up. Back up your data and make sure those backups aren’t connected to your home network. You can copy your computer files to an external hard drive or cloud storage. Back up the data on your phone too.

What to Do If You Suspect a Phishing Attack

If you get an email or a text message that asks you to click on a link or open an attachment, answer this question: Do I have an account with the company or know the person that contacted me?

If the answer is “No,” it could be a phishing scam. Go back and review the tips in How to recognize phishing and look for signs of a phishing scam. If you see them, report the message and then delete it.

If the answer is “Yes,” contact the company using a phone number or website you know is real. Not the information in the email. Attachments and links can install harmful malware.

What to Do If You Responded to a Phishing Email

If you think a scammer has your information, like your Social Security, credit card, or bank account number, go to IdentityTheft.gov. There you’ll see the specific steps to take based on the information that you lost.

If you think you clicked on a link or opened an attachment that downloaded harmful software, update your computer’s security software. Then run a scan.

How to Report Phishing

If you received a phishing email or text message, report it. The information you give can help fight the scammers.

Step 1. Forward the email to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at reportphishing@apwg.org. If you received a phishing text message, forward it to SPAM (7726).

Step 2. Report the phishing attack to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

 

Information courtesy of https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-recognize-and-avoid-phishing-scams#recognize

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