Today, we are going to talk about Internet Phishing Scams. What is a phishing scam? Phishing is used by some illegitimate party attempting to acquire your information (and sometimes, indirectly, money) such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by masquerading as someone you trust in an E-mail.
So, how do we guard against phishing scams and not allow ourselves to be taken advantage of? Here are 5 signs that the E-mail you are reading in your inbox is a scam:
1. Don’t trust the email just by the name displayed in your inbox:
Oftentimes, a hacker or scam artist will send an E-mail to you with a display name that looks like one of your friends. Say you know a guy named Joe Bloseph. The scam artist knows this and sends you an email like this:
Notice what they did here? If you open up your E-mail and just look at the name, it appears to have come from someone you trust. But look at the E-mail address, it is most definitely a generic fake that you will not be able to trace.
The way this person used Joe’s name is very simple to do – anyone, even you can do it, and it cannot be avoided. When you setup an email account in Outlook, it asks what you want your display name to be…I can write “Mickey Mouse” in there…it does not matter. There is no authentication, no verification, etc. But if you look at the person’s email address, it still shows up with who sent it.
A more sophisticated hacker could also fake your friend’s email address though, which leads me to my next two points:
2. Look for red flags in the E-mail: mis-spelled words and the writing style being different than what your friend normally sends you
Does the E-mail look strange? Did it strike you as odd that there were 10 mis-spellings and bad grammatical mistakes? Does it read like something your friend would normally send you?
3. Did you just get a link?
If the E-mail contains no other text, just a link, this is very suspicious and normally a red flag for spam / malware. Verify with the person that you were expecting a link in an email from them before clicking on it.
4. Asking for financial or personal information to “verify your account” or to “start a new job”
A couple of red flags to watch for here:
a. Did the E-mail appear to come from your bank or other trusted institution and ask you to enter in your account information to verify that everything was ok? Did you get a link that appeared to come from your bank to click on and login to verify?
– Your financial institution is NEVER going to ask you to enter trusted information to verify your account. The best way to avoid getting hacked is never click a link in an email that takes you to your bank’s website. The look and feel of your bank’s website can be duplicated. Instead, open up a web browser, and type in your bank’s web site directly in the address bar.
b. Did you get asked in the E-mail or link to enter in a debit card number to start your new “work from home job”? All they needed was $19.95 to send you your dream job marketing materials to make millions from home, right?
-Never, ever, EVER give a Debit card when purchasing online. Your bank does not insure purchases made with it or refund in the event of a scam. The money is straight-pulled out of your bank account. Always use a credit card instead of a debit card because you can have the charges reversed with a credit card.
5. Promising something for nothing or something too good to be true:
Did the E-mail make a lot of big promises telling you that you can work from home tomorrow and make six figures? A lot of work from home jobs marketed in this way are scams. There are legit ones out there, but you have to be very careful in vetting them. Do not trust an E-mail marketer promising riches with a work-from-home job or someone who is promising you big returns for little or no work.