These days it seems that new scams on the Internet are exposed hourly. Criminals aren’t wasting any time, and the scariest part of all is that they know who is vulnerable and how to rob them within minutes. For these thieves, scamming over the web is about as simple as taking candy from a baby. Avoiding going online at all would seem like the ideal solution, although it’s not practical for the grand majority of Internet users. Instead, learn how these scammers get information from you, and what you can do about it.
What is ‘Phishing’?
The most vulnerable market for phishing scams are the elderly. Basically, a person gets access to your usernames, passwords, social security number, credit card information, bank account details or anything else you can think of because you actually give it to them. Of course, it’s not as simple as asking for it. These thieves present themselves as an accredited institution that you would normally be willing to give such information to, and give a reason why they need this type of information from you.
For example, let’s say you receive an email with the name Wells Fargo. The subject is “Urgent! Protect Your Bank Account Now.” You reluctantly open the email, which has a brief message explaining that your bank account has suspicious activity of a potential hacker, and that you should consider changing your password. Then there’s a link to “immediately take you to the password change website.” It still looks legit, and asks you to identify your full name, password, bank account number and mother’s maiden name. It looks like a Wells Fargo website, so you don’t hesitate to enter in your information.
And that’s where it ends. Your bank account is now in the hands of a complete stranger, who could do frightening damage with your finances before you can even exit the page. So, what can you do to protect yourself against phishing scams?
- Take notice of the actual email address of any sender claiming to be a trustworthy source. You can usually hover over the displayed name to show the email address. Other times, it will show in the email. However, if needed, you can click the “reply” button to see the email address you are sending to. Does it look fishy? There’s a reason for that. Call your bank immediately and report the scam.
- Know that companies will never emailing you asking for this information. If you have any doubts, make a call to the company and investigate. Although, don’t call a number presented on the email. Get the verified phone number from the company’s official website and go from there.
- Avoid opening any links of suspicious emails. Even if you don’t type any personal information in, it may contain a virus or malware that can destruct your computer or illegally share your personal files.
If links are accidentally opened, check the URL as soon as it opens. You can almost always tell if the website is legitimate by the domain name. However, some are sneaky and can make the URL similar to your company’s. For example, someone pretending to be Bank of America, whose URL is www.bankofamerica.com, may have a minor difference in their URL, such as www.bankofameriica.com. Notice the extra ‘i’ that could possible be unnoticed at first glance. Additionally, a scammer may use www.bankofamericaonline.net to fool a user into thinking this is the company’s actual website.