Scams employing telecommunications technology are increasing, with Kaspersky reporting global phishing attacks rising from 19.9 to 37.3 million over the last year. Companies as technologically sophisticated as Twitter have fallen prey to simple email scams, as NatGeo News points out. Meanwhile, phone fraud is proliferating, with recent scams including phony government representatives offering help obtaining Obamacare benefits, as the Better Business Bureau reports. Scams like this are everywhere, targeting everyone from college students to stay-at-home moms and senior citizens, making it imperative for consumers of all ages to know what to watch for.
Pennsylvania police recently warned residents about fake Verizon emails. The sender informs recipients their credit charge has failed and instructs them to click on a link to update their information, as ABC reports.
This illustrates phishing, the most common online attack. Other common scams include asking for financial assistance to access Nigerian bank accounts; offering guaranteed credit or lottery winnings in exchange for up-front fees; free travel offers with hidden fees; fraudulent disaster aid requests; and fake job offers and work-from-home scams, according to NetForBeginners.com.
Telephone swindles have been around for years, but have recently acquired new sophistication due to automated dialers, mobile phones and other technologies, creating a scam known as voice phishing, also called vishing. If you’re wondering, “So what is vishing, anyway?”, one example is a recent scam perpetrated on New Mexico residents. Callers posed as utility company representatives, aided by fake caller ID information, KASA FOX explained. Reportedly, the caller threatens to cut off the victim’s electricity unless they buy a gift card and provide the numbers on it.
What to Watch out for
Whether delivered via phone or Internet, typical attacks follow some common patterns. One warning sign is getting contacted by a company you’ve never interacted with, who addresses you as if you have past history. When in doubt, verify that you are in fact dealing with the alleged party by contacting them through an official representative.
Another sign is generic contact information, which typically indicates your name has been harvested from a database. For instance, an email addressed to multiple recipients on the same domain may reflect a scam targeting your provider.
Many scam emails are composed by robots or by writers using English as a second language. Artificial language should arouse your suspicions.
Most scams promise something too good to be true, such as lottery winnings. They also often use scare tactics, such as announcing fraudulent use of your credit card. Such ways of intensely manipulating your emotions can alert you to malicious intent.
Most scams request sensitive personal or financial information. When someone requests such data, always ask yourself if a legitimate source would solicit it in this manner. For instance, utility companies don’t normally ask for gift card data — they send you a bill statement or payment reminder.
Many email scams involve links or file attachments. Never click on a link or open an attachment when you are in doubt about the sender. If you need to visit your bank or credit card company’s website, manually enter the site’s address, instead of clicking on a link in a suspicious email.