Posted November 21, 2022
Each day, fraudsters are attempting to obtain people’s personal information by posing as legitimate businesses and trusted organizations. What may seem like an innocent phone call, text message or email, can result in a scammer obtaining your personal information such as account information (account numbers) and/or identifying information (e.g., social security number, date of birth) and using it to steal your identity. Known as “phishing,” these types of scams have become so common that “identity theft” was ranked first amongst all categories of consumer complaints reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – with more than 1.4 million identity theft complaints filed in 2021 alone.
With fraudsters attempting to pose as reputable businesses, how can you avoid becoming a phishing victim?
Phishing phone calls, text messages or emails often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a malicious link or attachment. Look out for:
- Terms meant to emphasize urgency. For example, “Your payment is overdue!” or “There was a problem with the payment information for your recent purchase.”
- Terms meant to entice you. For example, “Click here for a free gift!”
- Terms meant to prey on your sense of security. For example, “We have noticed suspicious login activity” or “You have been locked out of your account.”
While legitimate companies may communicate with you by email, they WON’T email or text you with a link to update your payment information or provide your account information.
Here are some other tips on things to look out for or do when determining if a phone call text message or email might be phishing:
- Look at the “From” address in the email. If the email says it’s from a commonly recognized business, but the sender’s email address looks like a personal email or is from a foreign domain, it’s likely phony.
- Don’t click on links or open attachments until you can determine that the message comes from a trusted source.
- Don’t click on links or call back phone numbers provided in an unsolicited email or text. Scammers may try to trick you into calling a fake number. To check if a business or government agency is really trying to contact you, use its legitimate customer service email or hotline, which you can find on their website or on account statements.
- Never give out personal financial data, like your Social Security number or account numbers, in response to an unsolicited email or phone call. Legitimate businesses or government agencies will never ask you for such information in this manner.
- Use anti-virus software and keep it up to date.
- Vary your passwords – by doing so, you minimize the damage if one of your accounts is phished or hacked. Change passwords immediately if you suspect a breach.
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.