Scammers abound on the internet. Every day I get emails, tweets and Facebook messages from scammers intent on parting me from my money. These messages range from an alleged email from my bank or credit card company (which usually isn’t my bank) directing me to verify my account information to letters from people in faraway places claiming they have vast sums of money they want to send me. Another common phishing scheme is industry-directed. The ones I have most seen, of course, are directed toward members of the event industry. They usually state the sender will be having an event and would like to retain the recipient’s services. They will send a check for more than the amount and ask the recipient to forward the excess to other vendors.
So, with so many emails from so many places with so many different schemes, how can you tell which is an email scam and which is not? And even if it looks real, how do you avoid getting hooked by a phishing scheme?
Here are some simple ways to identify a “phishing,” “spoof” or scam email.
- You are being asked for personal information such as a password or bank account number.
- The email refers to an urgent problem or emergency that can only be avoided by you providing personal information—usually financial.
- You are going to receive an inheritance from someone you have never heard of (sorry, but that only happens in movies) or you have won a contest you did not enter.
- You are being asked to receive a check for more than the amount of your services and to forward the excess to another vendor.
- In an industry-related scam, the dates and places in the event are often vague or don’t make a lot of sense.
- The grammar or syntax is off. The letter sounds like it was either written using a some-other-language-to-English dictionary.
You can see examples of some recent phishing letters on my Facebook page.
Here are a few simple steps to avoid having your bank account emptied or your computer compromised by internet scammers.
- Follow your instincts: if something doesn’t feel right, pay attention.
- NEVER click on any link in a questionable email. If you want to visit the website to find out if it is real, go to the website by typing in the correct address.Four way
- If it is an email from a financial institution where you have an account, asking you to verify information, do NOT click on any links in the email (yes, I know I just said that. It’s important enough to be said twice). Go to the institution’s site by typing in the address. If there really is a problem with their system, you will see it on the site. If you still aren’t sure, pick up the phone and call their customer service department. They can verify for you whether or not there is a problem and the information request is legitimate.
- Regularly check any financial accounts you access online. Do not let it go for a month or more without viewing your statements and your online ctivity.
- Do not be fooled by sites (such as Paypal) that may look very much like the actual site, even using their logo. Legitimate internet sites will NEVER ask you to send your password to them.
- Do not download any attachment that comes in your email if you are not 100% sure of the sender.
- Avoid downloading software or files from sites you don’t know well. Some free software sites will download malware and viruses onto your computer.
- If you receive an email from someone you know and all it contains is a link, don’t click on it. It is likely their email has been hacked and it is a link containing a virus. Delete it and let the sender know they may have been compromised.
What has your experience with phishing and scams? Please share in the comment section below.