Protect Yourself From Phishing Scams With These 8 Effective Tactics

The most prevalent type of cybercrime in the United States, phishing attacks see cybercriminals send fraudulent emails purporting to be from reputable businesses or organizations, all in an effort to trick recipients into providing their personal or financial details. And according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, these digitally executed schemes cost American consumers more than $18 million of their own funds in 2023.

But by knowing how to spot a phishing email, how to report a phishing email and how to stay safe online more generally, consumers can protect themselves — and others — from falling victim to these fraudulent ploys. Read on to learn about some of the ways to identify phishing emails, what to do when you receive them, and other ways to steer clear of fraudsters with your online activities and email communications.

  1. Be careful with every email received — By always being on your toes and treating every email in your inbox as a potential threat, you can take substantial strides toward protecting yourself against online scams. Phishing emails can often look quite convincing, from the sender name and company logos to the official-sounding language used and the lookalike web addresses employed. But by always being on the lookout for things like online banking scams, for example, you can reduce your chances of falling victim to fraud. If you see, for instance, emailed requests for your username, password or other account information, you should think to yourself, “Banks never ask that via email.” Anytime you have this feeling, there’s a good chance the email that you’re reviewing is not legitimate.
  2. Be especially leery of links — A common practice in phishing emails is to ask you to click on a link to make a payment or “verify” your login credentials. Consider this a big red flag. While the web address provided may appear to be a legitimate one, the link will often direct you to a fraudulent website created to collect your sensitive personal or financial information. To check the actual destination of a link embedded in your email, hover your cursor over the linked words or web address without clicking it, which will cause the link’s actual destination URL to appear on your device’s screen. Even better, when looking to check on and resolve any potential issues, it’s a good practice to contact the business or organization directly via an official phone number or email address rather than clicking through on any emailed or texted links. That way you’ll know you’re actually dealing with the legitimate business or organization as opposed to a scammer.
  3. … and unexpected attachments — Another common phishing tactic is to send an email attachment such as a PDF file that the email claims is an important document — but is actually a malicious file in disguise. These attachments will often be computer viruses or malware designed to cause problems with your devices or monitor your online activities, thereby enabling scammers to glean your personal information or login details. Businesses such as banks will never send such attachments without making you aware they’re coming or without you requesting them, so it’s wise to avoid downloading unexpected attachments and/or to contact the business to confirm legitimacy before ever downloading them.
  4. Keep your devices secured and up to date — Computer and software makers frequently provide updates to and patches for their operating systems, applications, etc. This is often done in an effort to address any security vulnerabilities they may discover or to otherwise stay ahead of cybercriminals’ evolving tactics. So, by keeping your devices, operating systems, and applications up to date with the latest patches and updates, you can better protect yourself against unwanted intrusions by cybercriminals.
  5. Look for typos and poor grammar — Legitimate businesses and organizations typically go to great lengths to maintain a professional image with their communications. Cybercriminals, on the other hand, tend to be much less attentive to quality assurance with their phishing emails. As a result, typos and poor grammar often serve as strong signs that an emailed message is not legitimate. If you spot an error, it should set off alarm bells for you and give a good indication that the email is fake.
  6. Be suspicious of scare tactics — Scammers often employ high-pressure language and/or a sense of urgency to compel their victims to provide the sensitive information they are seeking. Legitimate businesses and organizations, on the other hand, rarely use these kinds of manipulative tactics. If you receive an email demanding immediate action, threatening undesirable consequences, and/or putting you in a stressful situation otherwise, consider it a red flag that the mail may not be legitimate — especially if it asks for personal information such as your login details, your Social Security number or your account information.
  7. Report sketchy emails — Many businesses and organizations provide a dedicated email address specifically for reporting phishing emails. And by contacting the business or organization to get this email address or by searching for it online, you can report suspicious emails (and help ensure the cybercriminals are tracked down and stopped) by simply forwarding them to the dedicated address. Otherwise, suspected phishing emails can be reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, the United States’ central hub for reporting cybercrime.
  8. Follow cybersecurity best practices — In general, by following some best practices with your email communications and online activities, you can protect yourself from falling victim to cybercriminals. For more helpful information on some of the leading best practices, check out the Arthur State Bank blog articles “7 Simple and Effective Ways to Protect Yourself From Cybercrime,” “8 Ways to Protect Yourself Against ID Theft” and “9 Tips, Tricks and Tools for Safer Online Banking.”

Proudly serving South Carolina since 1933, Arthur State Bank offers accounts and services to meet a variety of financial needs. To help you achieve all your financial goals, the bank offers in-person service as well as a range of convenient digital solutions. To learn how Arthur State Bank can help you with banking needs ranging from checking and savings to retirement accounts, mortgages, other personal loans, and more, visit

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Man doing his banking online is the only source for free credit reports authorized by the federal government. Every 12 months, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each agency.

Your credit report has your credit history for all of your credit accounts as well as any credit inquiries and public record court information such as collections. In addition, the report provides personally identifiable information such as your name, address, and employment.

Be sure to carefully review all three reports to identify any problem areas that you may need to clean up prior to applying for a mortgage. If there is any incorrect information, follow the reporting agency’s rules to correct it or add a notation to the report to explain the situation.

Your FICO Score is a score combines data from several areas include payment history, the amount owed, length of credit history, new accounts. Many lenders use this score as a guide. This score is not provided as part of the free annual credit report.

Learn more about how your credit score impacts your ability to secure a loan.


Couple looking over finances

Primary considerations for setting your housing budget require an assessment of your income, debt and current savings for the down payment on the home. The following are generally recommended guidelines; however, you should meet with an Arthur State Bank lender to get personalized mortgage information.


Couple meeting with lender

The pre-qualification/pre-approval letter is included with any offer you make on a house to inform the seller that you have met with a mortgage lender and you are prepared to make an offer. The letter states that based on certain assumptions, the bank is prepared to lend you up to a specified amount of money for a home mortgage.

When choosing a loan officer, we recommend going local to work with someone who understands your community’s real estate market. This blog on first-time home purchases includes questions to ask your lender that may be helpful when preparing for your meeting.

Helpful Resources:


Realtor shaking hands with a client

When a house is sold, the seller typically pays real estate commission to both the listing agent and the selling agent. It is extremely beneficial for the buyer to use their own real estate agent. Loan officers can often recommend selling agents in the area; ask your officer about realtor referrals when discussing your loan.

A good realtor will know the local market and can help you find an ideal home based on your budget, location and desired features. During your search, understand that you will most likely need to compromise on some items, so it’s important to identify your critical needs versus your wants.


Couple searching online for a home

Additionally, when you start with the house search and work backwards, homes can often go off the market while you’re completing steps 1-4. While browsing homes immediately can be tempting, we recommend following these steps in order so that, once you find your dream home, you’ll be well-positioned to take action immediately.

When you find the home you want and you think you are ready to put an offer on it, you will want to make sure you have all the information you need to make a solid offer.

  • Evaluate the neighborhood.
  • Drive by the house at different times of the day.
  • Examine how other houses in the neighborhood are maintained.
  • Consider any potential traffic or other disruptive noise.
  • Is there ample parking for you and visitors?
  • Read the details in any Homeowner Association agreements (HOA fees and rules).

Make sure to do a preliminary check of house details:

  • Check the water:
  • Does it have good pressure?
  • How long does it take to get the water hot?
  • Is it well water or city water?
  • Turn light switches on and off.
  • Open and close doors and windows to make sure they work properly.
  • Review previous utility bill expenses.
  • Consider the property tax bill.


Family meeting with realtor at new house

When writing an offer contract, be sure to pay attention to all of the details.

Offer Price:

Your agent should do a market analysis that pulls data on recently sold comparable houses. The best comparisons will come from the same neighborhood.

If you are asking for the seller to pay some of the closing costs, remember that this cost plus the sales commission determines the net amount you are offering the seller for the house.

Work with your agent on your negotiation strategy. There are many things to consider, such as how badly you want this particular house, whether it is a buyer’s or seller’s market and an assessment of the seller’s motivation to get the property sold.

There isn’t one best strategy.

Be sure to document in writing everything you want included with the house, such as appliances, etc. Your agent should guide you through the contract step-by-step.


  • Home inspection.
  • Mortgage.
  • Final walk through (24 hours prior to closing).

Proposed closing date. Typically, this is 30-45 days from an accepted offer.

A good-faith deposit is required for the offer. This is typically between 1-10% of the purchase price of the house. The deposit is kept in escrow until closing and the money is applied to the purchase price of the house at closing. If the house does not close due to one of the contingency clauses, the buyer receives their money back. However, if the buyer decides not to close on the property, the seller may get the deposit money.

Attach your pre-approval letter to the offer.


Two people in professional meeting

The clock starts ticking for everything documented in the contract, including mortgage application, inspections and closing date.


Woman advising other woman on mortgage application

You will need to decide which mortgage to select prior to the application.

Plan for the following potential fees:

  • Application fee (many banks and mortgage companies charge an application fee; however, there is not an application fee at Arthur State Bank).
  • Credit check.
  • Appraisal (may be paid at closing).
  • Loan origination fee (paid at closing).

Once you have approval for your loan, make sure you don’t change anything that will impact the status of your mortgage. Banks do a final check on credit and jobs just prior to closing, so now is not the time to change jobs or make another purchase on credit such as a car or furniture.


Home inspector going over findings with home owner

Depending on the size of the house, an inspection can cost on average between $300 to $1000.

Many real estate contracts specify how problems uncovered in the inspection will be resolved, up to a certain dollar amount. Should necessary repairs exceed that amount, the buyer has the option to cancel the contract without penalty and receive their deposit money back. Another option is for the buyer and seller to renegotiate who will pay for additional repairs.


Woman happily holding keys to her new home
  • Homeowner’s insurance is required by the lender prior to closing on the loan.
  • Turn on utilities in your name, effective the closing date.
  • Change your address with the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Make moving arrangements.

Three days prior to closing:

  • You should receive your final Closing Disclosure from the closing agency. The final Closing Disclosure shows a column for the seller and a column for the buyer. All closing charges and credits for both the seller and the buyer are documented in the closing statement.
  • Review the closing statement for accuracy prior to coming to closing.
  • The final amount in the buyer’s column shows you the amount of money you need to pay at closing.

The closing office will provide specific payment instructions. Closing funds have become recent targets for cybercriminals. If you are asked to use a wire transfer, call the office and ask to speak to someone you have been working with to double-check the instructions.

Closing day:

In South Carolina, the closing will usually take place at the attorney’s office. Everyone signing for the mortgage must be present to sign the closing paperwork. Make sure you bring the following:

  • Cashier’s check or proof of payment for wire transfer.
  • Driver’s license.
  • Checkbook, just in case there are any additional items that were not on the closing statement.

Be sure to understand this information:

  • How and when you will pay:
  • Your mortgage.
  • Your property taxes.
  • Your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Any HOA dues.
  • Who to call with any questions.

The best practice is to go through the homebuyer’s roadmap in this sequence. However, if you jumped ahead early in your journey, just circle back to address the steps you missed.

Arthur State Bank’s loan officers are closely tapped into local real estate markets and experts at helping clients get what they need on terms that work for them. We also offer mortgage specials for first-time homebuyers.

To start planning your journey to your dream home, try out our mortgage calculator. If you’re ready to talk to a loan officer, contact Arthur State Bank to request personalized mortgage information today. Don’t forget to ask about our first-time homebuyer offer.