With the recent breach of credit card numbers at Target over the holidays, many consumers are fearful of having their identities stolen. This is a normal reaction to an event like this, but the chance of your identity being stolen in this manner is slim. It seems as though it is common with the news stories, but it really isn’t. If you are worried about having your identity stolen, you should be more concerned with phishing scams than with security breaches at major retailers.
Phishing scams are when a scam artist sends you an email that appears to be from a legitimate organization. They usually tell you that there is an issue with your account or your account has been suspended. In order to correct the issue, you need to click on the link in the email and log in. The link though takes you to a different site than promised (even though it looks like the site in question) and there the scam artist either steals the information you enter or they force you to download a program which records your keystrokes for the scam artist to then use. So how do you protect yourself from phishing scams?
Protecting Yourself From Phishing Scams
There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from these scams. In no particular order:
Check For Spelling: Many times these emails originate in Nigeria or other parts of the world where English is not the native tongue. As a result you can easily spot many misspelled words or even incorrect grammar. Trust me, you don’t need to have a degree in English to spot these errors either. You just have to pay attention.
Don’t Click On The Link: I don’t care what the email says, never, ever click on a link within an email. If the email is telling you that your PayPal account has been suspended, then open a new window and type in the PayPal web address and log in from there. Chances are that any link within an email is a scam. Don’t do it.
Ignore Emails From Unknown People: If you don’t recognize the sender’s name, delete the email. Don’t get suckered into the subject line, just delete the email. The subject line will play with your emotions to get you to open the email, but be strong and delete it. Trust me, you didn’t just win $10,000,000,000,000 from some lottery in Algeria.
Don’t Trust Emails From Loved Ones: Recently, scammers have been hijacking users email accounts and emailing everyone in that person’s contact list. You’ll get an email telling you that your loved one is in another country and is in trouble and needs money. Don’t do anything. Call up your loved one. If you can’t get a hold of them, call up other loved ones to see if the person in question really is traveling. Chances are they are not.
Remember What Companies Tell You
Most companies will not email you if there is an issue with your account. They even tell you this. In fact, many times you will see there is an issue when you log into your account. This all goes back to the point above to never click on a link within an email. If you are concerned, either call the company up or open a new window and type in the web address and log in yourself.
When it comes to phishing, the scam artist is trying to do one thing – get you emotionally involved so that you take action without thinking things through. By the time you start to think things through, it’s too late and your identity has already been compromised.
If you see an email come through that tugs on your emotions, that makes you think there is an issue, stop and think. Take a minute to collect your thoughts and then proceed with caution. Follow the steps I outlined above: don’t click on links, ignore emails from people you don’t know, call loved ones if they appear to be in trouble and know that most companies won’t email you about an issue. If you can follow these tips and think things through before acting, you will save yourself many potential headaches down the road.
To learn more about scams and to protect yourself against becoming a victim, read these posts:
Readers, have you been the victim of any phishing scams?