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Protect Yourself From Scams

Spoofing, Malware, Phishing, or just plain old Scamming.

Scammers are getting increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to get your money or personal information. Be alert and protect yourself from being scammed by following these tips. Remember that scammers are after two things: access to systems and information, or they are after your money. Be cautious when an email seems to be asking for either of these two things.

Scams Target Everyone

Scams target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels. There's no one group of people who are more likely to become a victim of a scam, and all of us may be vulnerable to a scam at any time.

Scams work because they look real and they catch you off-guard. Scammers are getting smarter and they create believable stories that will convince you to give them your money or access to your personal information.

Phishing emails are also the leading vehicle for ransomware attacks. These emails contain illegitimate web addresses and/or attachments that launch the ransomware attack when they are clicked on by users.

Protect Yourself From Scams at a Personal Level

Don’t click on links in the email. Just don’t.

Be alert to the fact that scams exist.  Always consider the possibility that the email may be a scam. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Pay attention to the “from” email address. Look for email addresses that are similar to a legit address. Sometimes you will see a number “1” substituted for the letter “I”. Attention to detail is your friend.

Know who you're dealing with. Do a Google image search on photos or search the internet for the person or company.

Read emails carefully. Scammers usually don’t check their spelling. If the message has typos, misspellings, or doesn’t make grammatical sense, it’s probably a scam.

Do not open suspicious messages, pop-up windows or click on attachments in emails – delete them. If you are unsure, verify the identity of the sender through an independent source such as an online search.

Don't respond to phone calls asking for remote access to your computer – hang up. Even if they mention a well-known company such as Microsoft or Dell. Scammers will often ask you to turn on your computer to fix a problem or install a free upgrade, which is usually malware that will give them access your passwords and personal information.

Keep your personal data secure. Shred your bills and other important documents before throwing them away. Be very careful how much personal information you share on social media sites.

Keep your mobile devices and computers secure. Always use password protection, update security software and back up content. Protect your WiFi network with a password and avoid using public WiFi hotspots to do online banking.

Choose your passwords carefully. Choose passwords that would be difficult for others to guess and change them regularly. Don’t share your passwords with anyone.

Review your privacy and security settings on social media. If you use social media sites, such as Facebook, be careful who you connect with and use your privacy and security settings to ensure you stay safe. 

Beware of any requests for your personal info or money. Never send money or give credit card info, or personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust. Don't transfer money on behalf of someone else.

Confirm any unusual email requests by phone. Check them out in real time.

Beware of unusual payment requests. Scammers will often ask you to use an unusual payment method, including preloaded debit cards, gift cards, Western Union wire transfers or crypto currency such as Bitcoin.

Be careful when shopping online. Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, and always use an online shopping web site that you know and trust. 

Protect Yourself From Scams at a Company Level

Use email filtering. Although it’s not perfect, filtering can substantially reduce the amount of scammy email that gets thorough to your workers.

Encrypt outbound emails. This prevents sensitive information from being read if it is intercepted during transmission.

Archive your emails: Email archiving prevents accidental and non-accidental deletions of email messages.

Train your employees. Every employee should receive training in how to identify email scams and how to respond to email scams. Then employees should be periodically “stress tested” with fake scam emails, and those who do not pass should receive remedial email security training.

How To Spot a Fake

Clues for spotting a fake document

Documents are easily counterfeited. Some will look exactly like the genuine article, but others might have red flags such as:

  • generic rather than personal greetings
  • names of organizations or companies that don't exist
  • poor grammar and spelling
  • overly official or formal language
  • threats or negative sanctions for not following instructions

Documents such as contracts and bank statements have simple, uncomplicated layouts. This means that scammers can easily create fake documents by using information readily available online such as company logos and graphics.

Clues for spotting a fake email

Scammers can easily fake official-looking emails, using the same tactics as fake documents.

Often times you're not expecting a suspicious email, so always be alert to a fake before clicking on any links or opening any attachments.

Follow-up scams

Scammers will often try to take advantage when you’re feeling vulnerable and try to extract more money or personal information from you through a follow-up scam. Plus, if you fall victim to a scam, the criminals will assume that you are an easy target.

Some common follow-up scams include:

  • Offers from a law enforcement agency to investigate your scam and retrieve your money for a fee. Law enforcement agencies do not charge for their services.
  • A doctor calls you to alert you that the scammer now urgently needs their medical bills to be paid or they will die.
  • A female contacts you to explain she is the scammer’s wife and wants to leave him but needs money to make it happen.

These are only a few of the follow up scams that criminals may use try to get more money from you. New approaches could be very different from the original scam and could come immediately or sometime after. Scammers may have passed your information on to other scammers who use different scams and the new scam may seem totally unrelated to the original scam.

For more information on security and scam prevention, please click here to contact an expert on email security.

October 18th, 2021