How to Avoid Phishing Scams – AMAC

A friend recently posted on social media that he got scammed. His computer was hacked by a phisher claiming to be from fintech company PayPal. The scam involved receiving a message from a credit union that he had purchased something he had not purchased. When he called PayPal at the attached number, it wasn’t really them. The hackers took over his computer and attempted to steal $20,000. Now my friend is facing the nightmare of trying to protect his accounts and credit and regain access to his computer. There are a few quick takeaways.

Getting hacked can happen to anyone – including smart people – and it can be a frightening and aggravating experience. One of the most common ways to be scammed is to receive an email that fraudulently claims to be from a familiar company, like in the story above. Big companies like PayPal are working to address phishing issues. The act is defined as illegal attempts to “fish” your private or sensitive data. If you receive a suspicious email from someone spoofing PayPal or phishing, the company encourages you to forward the entire email to [email protected]. They ask you not to edit the subject line or forward the message as an attachment. After, they suggest you to delete the suspicious email from your email account. As with any questionable email, avoid clicking on links that may harm your computer. Many other companies have similar policies and will work to protect consumers and combat fraud. But they rely on people to report impersonation and phishing attempts to them.

Online scams are extremely common; thus, consumers cannot trust every email they receive. Scammers work hard to make their emails look realistic, even replicating company logos in some cases. Often there are hints of a scam. This may include an incorrect company address. Often the web address is garbled or looks suspicious. (Hint: you can’t always rely on the “s” for secure in http, as advanced hackers can now create encrypted sites.) Or there may be spelling mistakes, typos, or bad grammar in the email subject line or body text. Greetings can also be impersonal and read “Dear User” or “Hello Member”, while genuine communications will generally use the name of the person on the account.

Phishing emails often use scare tactics – demanding personal account information or indicating that there is a problem with your account. Legitimate businesses don’t issue ultimatums. So scare tactics are a common red flag of a scam. There are many smart ways to protect your personal information from phishing and fakes. This includes being aware of scams, knowing how to spot them, and protecting personal information. If you have questions about the validity of an email, do not click on links or use any contact information they provide. Instead, contact the company directly with a phone number or email address that you have independently verified and know to be genuine. And, as always, report fraud, scams, and poor business practices to the company and/or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) so they can investigate and help fight the fraud.

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Andrew B. Reiter