Posted on March 13, 2023
Phishing continues to be a leading issue and threat for many companies and consumers. As of October 2022, phishing attacks were already up 61% compared to the previous year*. Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated with the deceptive texts, emails and messages they use to trick people into divulging personal information.
In Hawaii, approximately one in five fraud complaints lodged with law enforcement and government agencies in 2022 were related to imposter scams**, where scammers pose as legitimate individuals or companies in an attempt to steal personal information or funds. Nearly $38 million was lost by Hawaii residents who were victims of fraud last year, an increase of almost 70% compared to the year prior.
With scammers becoming increasingly savvy, what can be done to protect yourself? Here are some tips you can follow to avoid becoming a fraud victim:
- Treat emails, texts and messages with caution: Don’t reply to suspicious messages, click on links or download any attachments. If you’re unsure if a message is legitimate, check with the company or sender by using contact information obtained from their website or another reputable source. Do not use the contact information provided in a suspicious message – it may reroute to the scammer instead of an actual business.
- Remember that legitimate businesses will not call, email or text you for personal information: Financial institutions (like Hawaii State FCU) and legitimate companies will NEVER call, email or text you requesting personal or sensitive information, including social security numbers, passwords, account credentials or PIN codes.
- Beware of messages conveying urgency: Phishing attempts often prey on your desire to act when something is wrong. A message may claim that your renewal can’t be processed without payment information, or that a package can’t be delivered until you update your account information. These are often sophisticated attempts to get you to divulge personal information. Think twice – Do you have a subscription with that company? Were you expecting a package? If you’re in doubt, verify with the company independently, using reliable contact information from the company’s own site.
- Keep your anti-virus software and operating systems updated: This includes on your smartphone. Systems upgrades are often issued to patch identified vulnerabilities and enhance security measures. By staying up-to-date, you provide your electronic devices with added protection.
If you believe you’re the victim of identity or financial fraud, make sure to report it immediately. Contact your financial institution or the business where you suspect the fraud may have occurred. Also, notify law enforcement and report the incident to the FTC. For more tips on how to recognize and avoid phishing scams, visit the FTC website.
* Based on a November 2022 report by computer and network security company SlashNext.
** As reported in the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2022.