By Abel Zurita
Have you fallen victim to a phishing scam? Or perhaps clicked a sketchy link in your inbox? If unprepared it can happen to anyone, especially as technology continues to develop and phishing scams become more creative, so here is what you can do.
Phishing is the act of when someone uses fake emails, calls, texts and other mediums to get you to expose valuable personal information, often financial information. They often target credit card information, bank account information, social security numbers, and passwords. Many phishing attempts often impersonate familiar people or companies like Amazon or FedEx. They may also attempt to breach your devices or network by embedding intrusive programs into clickable links capable of blocking you from your data and transmitting the data elsewhere.
The image above is a phishing scam impersonating FedEx and at first glance it can be quite convincing…
Luckily, being informed is already half the battle. What do you do with this information? First and foremost – be wary. When browsing emails or receiving texts remember that these scams exist. When suspicion arises, even the slightest bit, act on it. Look closely at the email or text message or listen closely to that call.
Start with the source. Who is sending you this? If there are typos or extra characters, then it is likely a phishing scam. A quick google search for the official email of the company or person the communication claims to be from can save you a lot of hurt. You can even contact that person or company directly to verify the validity of the communication.
Look at the rest of the information provided. Does it address you by name? Are there grammatical errors? Are there spelling errors? What is it asking? More likely than not, a scam will ask you to click on a link and will usually encourage you to do so immediately by instilling a sense of urgency. This urgency could take the form of a misplaced delivery or an urgent message, among other things. Finally, hover over the link. Do not click on anything unless you are sure it is safe but hovering over the link can expose the link address and warn you of fraudulent activity if the link provided doesn’t correspond with the official website.
There are also more preventative measures you can take. Multifactor verification for your accounts and passwords would help protect you from the consequences of being phished. You can also set notifications for your banking activity so when a transaction or login occurs you are immediately notified and can take the correct actions, if any. Finally, make sure to keep your devices updated for increased security and back up your data, when possible, just in case it is compromised.
Unfortunately, there may come a time when a phishing scam gets the better of you. So, what happens if you take the bait? What do you do now?
Act immediately! The longer you take, the longer they have with your information to cause you harm. If your banking information was compromised, call the number on the back of your card and explain the situation. You can also google your bank’s fraud division and use the contact information from there to let them know. Be prepared to give your personal information to your banks as this often results in the freezing of your account, and for that they need to verify your identity.
If you think your passwords to different websites have been compromised, change them immediately and start using multi-factor authentication if you aren’t already.
In the dangerous case that your social security information has been exposed, immediately contact the Social Security Administration and inform them of the situation. They will likely block and even assign you a new social security number if necessary. Attackers with your social security information can use it to open credit cards and bank accounts, empty existing bank accounts, request a loan among other things all in your name, so it is imperative you act quickly. Furthermore, contact one of the three credit agencies (Experion, Equifax, TransUnion) and request a fraud alert for your account. This will effectively block anyone from attempting to apply for credit in your name, protecting your credit.
Hopefully, none of you after reading this will ever have to take these actions. Phishing scams in today’s digital landscape will continue to evolve but you are prepared. Remain cautious! If there are any more questions, feel free to reach out to Emory Financial Literacy!
Here are some links for additional tips and assistance: