The Latest Phishing Scams Are Scary
By Will from Holland
Ever download an app? If you get a text message the next day saying, "There's a security problem with the app you downloaded," would you read it? Would you click the link in the text?
Let's say you bought an airline ticket online. Hours later, you get an email from an email address that has the name of your airline in it, saying your ticket is attached. Would you download it?
How about, for example, you receive an email saying, "Your sister said to send you these pix." You have a sister who sends pix to you occasionally, so you open the document.
In all three examples you were scammed—and your money, your identity, and probably your credit are all getting ready to fly out the window. What happened?
"Phishing" scams have been around for years. Phishing simply means someone is "fishing" for your key personal or financial information. Having this information allows them to rip you off. Scammers can send millions of emails at once, knowing they will find someone who will respond to them.
Until recently, most of these scams have been too sloppy with poor spelling and English mistakes, or too far-fetched, like, "I'm looking for a friend to hold my ten million dollars!" to trap most people.
But the latest scams aren't sloppy, they're actually very slick. And they are very dangerous because there is always at least one element that makes them believable.
- The "Problem with your downloaded app" scam: scammers know that virtually anyone who gets their email will pay attention to this—and some scam emails even have very impressive websites that back up the scam. They, of course, ask for your personal and financial details to "solve" the problem. Bingo, you've been phished.
- "Your ticket is attached" scam: this is probably the scariest scam, since it rings so true. Let's say you ordered a ticket on American Airlines' website sometime in the past few months for a future trip. You receive an email from supportAtAmericanairlines.com and think it must be your ticket. You download the file without thinking. But the email address and website are phony, not American Airlines. Simply by downloading the file you are ruined. (To learn more about this actual scam, go to www.aa.com/phishing.)
- "Your sister sent these pictures" scam: if you don't have a sister, you probably wouldn't open this email. But what if you got an email from one of your best buddy's email address with pictures attached? Would you open it without thinking? Hundreds of thousands of people have been "phished" like this because their friend's email address was on a list that was stolen and used to send emails.
How do you protect yourself? Please read carefully:
- Virtually no reputable company will send downloadable files in an email or text message. For instance, airlines do not send tickets as attachments. Ever. So, don't download attachments without thinking!
- No reputable company will contact you and ask you to confirm your personal data via links in its email or text. When should you give personal information in an unsolicited email? Never!
- Never go to a website address—or call a phone number—in any suspect email. Instead, go to a published website address or call the company directly to ask if they sent the email.
- When you're trying to decide if an email or text message is a scam, use this rule: If it looks innocent, it probably isn't. "Been meaning to send you this," sounds innocent enough. So, delete it!
Fall for one—just one—phishing scam and you're in for months of hassle. Why go there? Missing one legitimate message from a friend because you deleted it isn't a big deal. Falling for one phishing scam is a very big deal.
Hope this helps. Good luck!