In my last blog, I discussed the two most common types of fraud: imposter scams and online shopping scams. There are a variety of imposter scams, but they all have one thing in common: a scammer pretending to be someone you trust so they can get money. Similar to imposter scams, phishing scams are when a scammer pretends to be a company you know and do business with so they can take advantage of you.
Have you received an email that appears to be from your bank or mortgage company asking for personal information? Phishing scammers use email or texts that appear to be from a real business to trick you into providing information that allows them to access your account and take over.
Phishing messages tell a story to trick you into clicking the included link or attachment. The message may
- say suspicious activity or log-in attempts have been noticed
- claim there is a problem with your account or payment information
- ask you to confirm personal information
- ask you to make a payment by using a link provided
How to spot a phishing scam
Scammers go through great lengths to make their emails and text messages look real. However, there are several things you can do to avoid falling victim to a scammer.
Phishing emails often have a lot of typos and other errors. For example, instead of having a “payment” button the email may have a “try payment again” button. Some other things to look out for include use of a generic greeting, businesses typically use your name. Also check the sender’s email address, phishing emails will not come from an email that is easily recognizable.
Protect yourself from phishing
Your email should have spam filters, but since scammers are always trying to beat the filters here are 4 things you can do to protect yourself:
- If you receive a text message you were not expecting asking for personal information, do not click on any links.
- Use security software to protect your computer. Have it automatically update so it can deal with new threats.
- On your mobile phone, set your software updates to automatic so it can stay current.
- Back your data up – phone and computer.
Additionally, if you have an account with the company or know the person that contacted you, contact them using a phone number or website you know is real. Because attachments and links can install harmful software, do not click on them.
Help fight scammers and report emails or texts that you believe are phishing.
Step 1: If you receive a phishing email, forward it to the Anti-phishing working group at: email@example.com. If you receive a phishing text, forward it to SPAM (7726).
Step 2: Report a phishing attack to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
Don’t let scammers trick you into giving personal information, learn about scams, take steps to protect yourself, and report fraud.