Whether online or over the phone, criminals continually come up with new ways to get you to part with your personal information . . . and your money. Sometimes the best defense is knowing what you’re up against and recognizing a scam when you’re faced with one. Always evolving, here are a few of the latest tricks scammers are using:
You might receive an email from someone in your contact list directly addressed to you. It could make reference to a mutual friend in need and ask for money to be sent immediately. Or there could be a link within the email that includes a malware download to your device. These emails tend to feel a little “off,” so if your instincts are telling you something isn’t right, it probably isn’t. Confirm with your friend before acting. Never respond to, click on a link from or download anything from an email you don’t trust.
Spear phishing is the new and improved version of phishing—targets are individually selected and they use what they know about you to access your personal and financial information. They might know your name, your address, even where you work or bank. Then they use this information in an email, message or text representing themselves as someone or a company you know to gain further access.
Vishing (or voice phishing) occurs when you receive a call on your home phone or mobile device from someone pretending to be from a trusted source, like your credit union. In reality, it’s a criminal trying to gain access to your account information. Thieves will often use an automated system and leave messages saying there’s a problem with your bank account or your debit or ATM card. You will then be directed to a phone number or website that will ask for you to verify your personal account information. Once disclosed, they have access to your money. Always contact the company directly by a known number to confirm the legitimacy of the request.
You’ve probably seen chain letters tweeted or emailed to you about someone donating money to a particular charity if you forward this tweet or email. Spammers use this to get emails for further spams and possible malware attacks that can affect your computer if you click on a link within the email. The best advice is to break the chain by not re-tweeting or forwarding—and don’t click through any links.
Social media makes it easy for us to stay in touch with friends, but if one of your friend’s computers is infected you could be a victim of a malware attack. You might receive an urgent request from a friend who lost their wallet and is stranded and needs you to send cash fast. Before acting, call your friend to confirm and then make sure your computer isn’t infected.
Beware of blindly clicking on shortened URLs. You’ll see them everywhere on Twitter and Facebook, but you never know where you’re clicking through since the URL hides the full location. You could be clicking a link that installs malware on your computer. Make sure you have real-time protection against spyware and viruses.
If you have been a victim of an Internet scam or have received an email that you believe was an attempted scam, please file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. Please contact UNIFY at 877.254.9328 to report a scam that came from a fraudulent email or phone call from a person representing themselves as “UNIFY.”