You’ve probably seen at least one, an email telling you that a $XX,XXX payment is about to go in to your bank or Paypal account — but ONLY!! if you confirm your address. And your name. And your dog’s name. And your Social Security number. And your dog’s Social Security number.
Sure, they might look fairly convincing (same big company logos, similar email design template, same boring corporate text), but your gut is telling you ‘really? I’m getting $10,546.72 from nowhere and my DOG has a Social Security number???’. Listen to your gut. It’s probably a phishing scam.
Telltale signs of a phishing scam:
- Sense of urgency (respond today or we close your account!!!!)
- Scare tactics (your dog’s account security has been compromised – doomsday!)
- They want you to click a link or fill out a form to verify information
- Misspellings and poor grammar
- Call you ‘valued customer’ instead of your actual name
- Email sent from a weird email address
- When you hover (DON’T CLICK!) over links in an email, the URLs are a little ‘off’
If you see an email that appears to be a phishing attempt, the best thing you can do is NOT do what they tell you (no link clicking, no replying, no form filling out). Delete the suspicious email or forward it to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the email has a hint of legitimacy, don’t report it yet – rather, call the organization it is supposedly from (using a phone number listed on their Web site, not in the email) to verify that THEY are the ones trying to reach you. Also, be sure that you regularly check your online accounts and credit reports regularly, so that you can catch anything less than desirable just in case.
Remember, phishing scams aren’t just over email either – other places to be cautious:
- Social networking sites
- Your instant message chat program
- Cell phone text messages
- Fake sites that look like sites your trust, but are not (check those URLs!!)
A little common sense goes a long way, as with everything. If you see something pop up in your email that looks too good to be true (how many times can you win the lottery you never played – really?), it just might be. Stay secure and don’t let the bad guys go phishing for your information!