One used to go fishing and enjoy the great outdoors. Today Oxford Languages defines “phishing” as the fraudulent practice of sending emails or other messages purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.
We all get them: the unsolicited phone calls, the emails from our grandson asking for money due to an emergency, our bank alerting us to an emergency situation and then for “security” purposes asking for our confidential information for our “protection.” These are just a few modern-day examples of fraud.
The Federal Trade Commission says “Scammers use email or text messages to try to steal your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. If they get that information, they could get access to your email, bank, or other accounts. Or they could sell your information to other scammers. Scammers launch thousands of phishing attacks like these every day — and they’re often successful.”
Scammers constantly are updating their tactics to keep up with the latest news or trends, but there are some common tactics used in phishing emails or text messages.
Phishing emails and text messages like this try to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. The following are some of the latest tactics used to scam seniors;
- The message claims that suspicious activity or log-in attempts have been discovered on your account
- The sender alerts you that there’s a problem with your account or your payment information
- The message requests you to confirm some personal or financial information
- There may be a fake invoice included
- Fake payment links may be included that actually download malware to your computer or phone
- A claim is offered that you are due a refund, rebate, or some type of financial settlement
- A coupon for free products or services may be included
All of these types of messages or emails are fraudulent. They may look official or even reference an account or subscription that seems familiar to you. This is a technique being deployed across the country to defraud seniors out of billions of dollars per year.
Unfortunately, all too many people fall for these techniques. If there is ever any concern, look up the company’s contact information (telephone number, mailing address, or website address) yourself and contact them without using the information contained in the message. Scammers rely on the laziness and complacency of the people they target. Do the work to ensure that you are, in fact, talking to the company you should be and don’t take their word for anything.
Here can be many or few tale tell signs that an email is a scam even though it looks legitimate;
- Not personally addressed to you or uses a nickname instead of your legal name or the name on your account
- No identifying account numbers
- Poor grammar and/or spelling errors (Even a single spelling or grammatical error is enough to raise suspicion)
- Urgent action demand – Scammers want you to react before you’ve had a chance to doubt the request
- Requests for login credentials, payment information and/or sensitive data
- Offers that are too good to be true
Look at the return email address. If it looks suspicious, stop and don’t respond.
Never give out any personal information without first verifying the caller or sender. This is best done by going to the company’s website, and calling the phone number you see there. Do not use a website link or telephone number provided in the email, phone call, or message. Look it up yourself. Once you call the company in question, ask if there are any problems with your account. Tell them why you are calling and be sure to include specific details about the message or call you received. Most companies are well aware of scams that target their customers and they are eager to help thwart the scam and to protect you. If a scam is uncovered by the operator they may route you to a company fraud division.
It’s also worth noting that many scams begin with a message or phone call claiming that you are already a victim of a scam. This tactic is designed to scare you and to give you the impression that the caller or sender is there to help you. These scams, especially, can be easily thwarted if you hang up the phone ignore any messages and contact the company on your own with information that you look up. Most scams cannot survive if you simply make the effort to contact the company in question independently of the scam message.
It is important that you continue to learn how to protect yourself by familiarizing yourself with what scams are currently being perpetrated as well as their correlating counter measures.