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We all like to think we’re too smart to get caught in a scam, right? Especially if we’re running a small operation or are just individual users. After all, why would cybercriminals be interested in someone small when there are big fish in the sea? Well, this is precisely the mindset that makes anyone an ideal target.

No Fish is Too Small

First, let’s debunk a myth: Phishers don’t just go after the whales. They cast wide nets, using automation, hoping to catch anything, even minnows. To a cybercriminal, every catch has value. Small businesses or individual users often have weaker security, making them easy targets. Small businesses and individual users can also be gateways into bigger businesses, also.

Keep in mind that phishers aren’t making decisions about their targets. They are non-discriminatory in the extreme. If they can get an email address, they’ll feed it into their engine and start sending phishing emails to it. It’s not personal. It’s not even considered. It just is.

Why The “I’m Too Small” Mindset Is Dangerous

Believing you’re too small is a form of cognitive bias. This self-assuring mindset can make us drop our guard, believing we’re not worthy of a scammer’s attention. However, phishing campaigns, especially automated ones, don’t care how big you are or how many employees you have. They target vast numbers of email addresses, and if you have an email address, you’re a potential victim.

Strategies to Cultivate Skepticism

Being skeptical isn’t about being paranoid; it’s about being prudent. Here’s how you can develop a skeptical mindset and guard yourself against phishing.

1. Question Everything

That email from your bank, the DM from a colleague, the strange link a friend shared – always approach unexpected online content with a hint of suspicion.

Tip: Look for subtle red flags. Spelling and grammar errors, strange email addresses, or URLs that don’t quite match up can be giveaways. Look for big red flags, too. If you only see a person once a year at the company picnic, why would they be emailing you pictures from their conference-room birthday party?

2. Don’t Trust, Verify

Received an unexpected email asking for sensitive information? Instead of replying, contact the sender separately (don’t just hit reply). If it’s your bank or a colleague, call them up or start a new email thread.

Tip: Always use official contact details, not the ones provided in the suspicious message.

3. Stay Updated

Cyber threats evolve. Stay informed about the latest phishing techniques. Being aware is half the battle.

Tip: Join cybersecurity forums or follow related blogs to get regular updates.

Take advantage of and pay attention in any employer-sponsored education that’s offered. You do not want to be the person who gets pointed at as the one who clicked open the attachment that resulted in the company systems being held for ransom, right?

4. Double-Check URLs

Before clicking, hover over a link to see the full URL. Is it directing to a legitimate site? Remember, www.amaz0n.com is not the same as www.amazon.com.

Tip: Bookmark essential websites. Use those bookmarks to access sites, reducing the risk of landing on a fake page.

5. Educate and Test Yourself

Knowledge is power. Periodically read up on phishing scams and test yourself with simulated phishing exercises available online. It will keep you sharp.

Tip: Savvy employers will periodically do phishing tests. They send you fake phishing emails to see how you react. (We manage that testing for our clients, and our clients’ leaders are ALWAYS surprised at the number of people who will click through the fake emails. It’s sobering, to say the least.)

The Key Takeaway

No matter how small you perceive yourself in the vast online ocean, remember, in the eyes of phishers, every catch has value. Cultivating a skeptical mindset isn’t about seeing threats everywhere but ensuring you don’t become an easy catch. By being prudent and questioning the unexpected, you’ll not only protect yourself but also frustrate those who wish to do harm, making the digital seas safer for everyone.