Fraudulent communication has become a way of life during the past few months, from which we must protect ourselves. Words like phishing, hacking, phreaking or bluejacking all generally mean the same thing: Someone is trying to get into your computer and access or manipulate your information. Spoofing on the other hand, means someone is trying to trick you by deceiving your computer into thinking they are someone else, hiding or faking their identity so you think they are another user.
Dishonest or fake electronic communications may take many forms. Basically, it is unauthorized actions from a third party. Phishing or spoofing is becoming more common and bold, as unauthorized users may present themselves as a legitimate company, using their logo, brand names or offers. These frauds may use the U.S. Mail, emails, texts, telephone or social media. The most malicious is through social media because you may think it’s someone you trust, while in fact it’s someone who plans to do you harm.
Here’s some information that may help you sort out the bad players from the good:
- No responsible organization will request personal information by email, telephone, fax, text, or through social media. This includes personal or financial information like banking, securities, tax, account numbers, Social Security identification numbers, passwords, or copies of invoices of a recent purchase.
- If through email, check the sender’s address in the “From” line in the email. Usually a fraudulent email will have a bogus made up address that does not match the name of the legitimate organization. In a recent article, a member of the “Shark Tank” received a bill asking for payment of an almost $400,000 invoice of a legitimate company. It seemed real, except the name was purposely misspelled in the “From” line which should have been the tipoff.
- Sometimes the color is off or the email format or attachment, if there is one, looks amateurish or slightly out of alignment.
- If you get a phone call from a governmental agency or company that you do business with, check the number of the incoming call. First off, the government does not use the phone to do business, whether it’s the Internal Revenue or Social Security. If your suspicious of the call, ask for a manager to get on the line, or better yet, ask for their name and phone number and you’ll call them back to verify that they are legit.
- If you receive telephone calls asking for information or a solicitation, simply say, “I don’t do business over the phone. Send me the information.” If they ask you for your address, hang up.
What to do about a fraudulent message or contact? A few ides:
- Send a screenshot and forward it to the legitimate company to research
- If you receive a message from a fraudulent IPS, send a screenshot of the message to the fraud division for investigation
- Learn more from the Federal Trade Commission: Google “FTC fraud complaint”
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