We’ve explained in the past how wire fraud – and other types of banking related fraud – are becoming widespread these days. Well one of the ways criminals are achieving this is through “phishing” scams.
The term “phishing” is fairly broad. Some are somewhat harmless internet rollers, while others are professionals that have become more than savvy at snatching up and selling your personal information. In either scenario, phishers are never trying to help you.
Remember the trend a decade or so ago of emails sent to us from supposed rich princes or diplomats that just needed a few thousand dollars until they could access their inheritances, and their promise to repay you 10 times over once they had access to it? Well today many of the scams can be a straightforward as that. They will try to scare you with a ruse such as telling you there is an issue with your email web service and ask you for information such as your full name, email address, password, and date of birth. Other phishing attempts may ask alert you to supposed “suspicious activity” to your account and request that you fill out an info form or click a link that they’ve provided.
It’s important to note that these emails will look and sound real and important, and may even use familiar logos. But once you log into their link or reply back with the requested information, you have now fallen right into their trap and they have exactly what they need from you.
In some cases they may send malicious downloads and viruses to your computer tat could literally track every keystroke that you make on that computer. This means they will now have access to your shopping history, login credentials, passwords, credit card info, home address, and so much more. The repercussions are far-reaching, and a lengthy and frustrating process awaits you to try to reverse the effects.
But the good news is you can protect yourself if you follow a few simply rules to stay safe:
1) Beware of Urgency: Phishers use fear to get you to take action. If you receive an unusual & unexpected email urging you to take immediate action, think and investigate before you react.
2) Delete it: Don’t be afraid to delete any message (email, voicemail) if you don’t know the source.
3) Don’t Believe Everything: If you receive unexpected correspondence, try contacting them by a different means. In other words, don’t click on their links, try going to their office or call a local branch (if it’s a bank, store, or utility, for example)
Phishing scams can only exist as long as there are enough people falling for these tricks. Your best defense will always be to use caution, be defensive, and delete anything that looks suspicious. And never try to confront a phisher directly – even over the phone or via email!