When Fraudsters Go Phishing, Don’t Take the Bait

August 8th, 2017

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First there was fishing – a practice going back thousands of years. The biggest losers were the fish while the biggest winners were those eating the fish.

Within the last couple of decades, people have become familiar with phishing. The biggest losers are innocent computer users who get tricked into giving up private personal information. The biggest winners are the scammers who can use this information to steal money from their victims.

For some fish species, fishing is not much of a concern. Anglers will tell you it is hard to catch a bonefish or a muskellunge or a flathead catfish. These fish just won’t bite.

Similarly, phishing is not much of a concern for people who can recognize the hook scammers use when phishing. More and more people follow these anti-phishing rules:

  • Don’t click on links from emails you don’t know.
  • Never communicate personal information on unsecure websites. Look for “https” on the URL line, not “http.”
  • Don’t use the same password on all websites you visit.
  • Don’t send personal or financial information via email. If your email account is hacked, the hacker can look at all your email files.
  • Protect your computer with anti-virus protection.
  • Stay away from pop-up screens.

Since more people have caught on to phishing tricks, scammers are looking for fresh waters to cast their fraud lines.

National Fraud Awareness Week (Aug. 7-Aug. 13) is a great time to get up-to-date on how to protect your identity and your money. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that each year 9 million Americans will have their identities stolen. Other estimates are higher than 15 million, which makes it 20 times more likely than having your car stolen. More people get their identity stolen each year than get cancer. The dollar impact in the U.S. is more than $15 billion a year. The average victim is hooked for more than $1,300.

The latest way to steal your identity is called Smishing. Smishing is a security attack on your phone or mobile device. It gets its name from SMS which stands for Short Message Service, more commonly referred to as text messaging. These fraudulent messages try to make you panic or act in urgency without thinking things out. Everyone with a cellphone is a potential victim.

For example, a smisher might send you a text pretending to be your bank warning about an unauthorized charge or a suspended account and then ask you to click a link or make a phone call to fix it.

Another common example is a text announcing you have won a gift card or concert tickets with a link to claim the gift. You might get a text announcing that a password is about to expire and that you need to update it by clicking a link.

Clicking these links may allow the smisher to get passwords off of your phone or steal other personal data. The fraudsters may even try to con you out of your debit or credit card number and PIN.

Don’t take the bait. Never click on links in text messages from people you don’t know. And be hesitant to click on links from people you do know if it looks suspicious – smishers love to pretend to be someone else. If you think a message is legit, you can initiate a call to the supposed sender’s customer service number to check if it is the real deal.

There is a reason you don’t see too many mounted muskellunges on a proud angler’s wall. You need to mirror those mistrustful muskellunges and don’t bite that bait.

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