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Image by Gerd Altmann 

Among the most insidious examples of the exploitation of fear come in the form of phishing, vishing and smishing. Phishing involves sending fraudulent emails intended to trick us into falling for a scam. Vishing is voicemail-based phishing, and smishing is SMS-based phishing. They all come down to the same thing: a message that strikes fear into your heart and forces you to act without thinking.

By reactively clicking on a link in response to a message, you open the door for malware to be delivered to your system. Here are three examples. What would you do (or what have you done) in response to one of these messages:

  • Urgent update: New Covid hygiene policies for your return to the office 

  • You owe money to the IRS. An agent is on the way to your house.

  • Grandma, help! I’m traveling in Paris and got arrested. I need bail money. Please help me!

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People fall for these types of messages so easily and predictably. For some, it’s because the message connects with a fear they already have. For others, it’s because they simply click on all messages that come to their phone or inbox. Others, especially elderly parents and young children, still believe in trusting others.

This is why everyone needs to practice and share this two-word mantra: “Gap It.”

Tell Mom to “Gap It” 

Gap It simply means that if you receive a message on any device alerting you to a problem such as the ones listed above — or any other type of message that comes with a link — that you place a gap between that message and your actions. Rather than instantaneously clicking the link on the message, go to the link via a different route.

For example, if the message is about a frozen bank account, then log in to your bank account independently through your computer the way you usually do. If the message appears to be from the IRS or a similar authority, then call them using their 800-number. Whatever utility or organization is involved, if there’s a genuine problem they’ll be able to find it through your account.  

The point here is to place a time gap between the threatening message and your reaction. If it’s the case that this threatening message is actually a smishing scheme that links back to a criminal organization, even if you contact this group with an “unsubscribe” or “leave me alone” message, you’ll still have fallen into their trap. Any response proves that yours is a live account whose contact details can be sold and further abused on the dark market. 

Apply the Gap It approach even to messages that look very genuine. You might receive an invoice from a supplier that you regularly use. The invoice looks legitimate, right down to the logo, the mailing address, and the font used. It might even have your name or company name right there on the invoice. 

But regardless of the level of detail, take the Gap It precaution. Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a technique where scammers create extremely convincing emails using all of the logos and branding of the real company. Your email address or phone number could be guessed or purchased online (that’s what data breaches do), and the email can look real and genuine. 

Don’t Fall For It

Employees must be shown how to follow up with every invoice using the same Gap It technique and use the connections they already have on file. Contact the supplier directly through the number or email address you always use, not the link on the message. 

The intent of the Gap It technique is to break the habit of unthinkingly reacting, and to replace it with an actual moment in which to investigate an email’s authenticity. By allowing and actively encouraging a Gap It culture to thrive, companies will be taking one more step toward helping ensure the safety of the entire organization.

Copyright 2022. All Rights Reserved.
Printed with permission of the author/publisher.

Book by this Author:

BOOK: The Future of Workplace Fear

The Future of Workplace Fear: How Human Reflex Stands in the Way of Digital Transformation
by Steve Prentice

book cover of The Future of Workplace Fear by Steve PrenticeWorkplace fear comes in many forms, including the fear of change, the fear of looking stupid, and the fear of working relationships, and in all cases these fears have deep roots that extend far below having to learn a new technology. It’s about the fear of losing a job, a livelihood, and an identity.

The results of such fear can have enormous repercussions on an organization, including increased vulnerability to ransomware and cyberattack, increased employee turnover, loss of competitiveness, loss of market share, resistance, sabotage, discrimination, and litigation. This book will demonstrate to managers and employees alike the various types of fear that can occur in the workplace in the context of digital transformation, and most importantly, how to overcome them.

For more info and/or to order this book, click here. Also available as a Kindle edition.

About the Author

photo of Steve PrenticeSteve Prentice is an expert in the relationship between humans and technology in the workplace. He is the author of books on time management, stress management, and career management. His new book is The Future of Workplace Fear: How Human Reflex Stands in the Way of Digital Transformation.

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