A generation ago, scams came to our doors via mail including details on pyramid schemes or get-rich-quick plots. Today, the same scams arrive at our digital doorstep, but they’ve hidden their intention so that you have no idea what you’re getting into. ID Analytics suggests that no less than 10 thousand different identity theft rings in the United States are eager to get your name, Social Security number and credit card information. How can you be sure an errant email poses a threat?
Your Country Needs Your Information
It’s easy enough to create an email account that looks like it came from a government domain, then demand that the recipient send out anything from their address to their bank details to “the IRS.” After all, getting the rights to an official-sounding email name like “irs.support.gov” requires only creating a bogus website to get the domain rights. Internet Crime Complaint Center’s annual identity theft report notes FBI email scams cause $5 million of losses in 2012, with about 50 reports per day. The solution? Ignore any email, even one with a government suffix, that asks for information directly. Not only are government officials forbidden to communicate sensitive information by mail, but the FBI and IRS can get your personal information much faster than by email.
Mobile and Social Media Marketing
If you sign up for mobile marketing alerts from a retailer or “like” a store’s Facebook page, you will likely receive notifications via social media and texts about special offers and discounts. Most of the time, these are just marketing tactics from stores you trust, but scammers can take advantage with mobile and social media phishing to get your personal information. If you receive a social media notification or a text message from an unknown person or number, don’t click on any links provided, even if it says something familiar about a brand or store you use. If it’s irregular or you didn’t sign up for it, it is probably a phishing scam.
Work At Home
Most people who have clicked around on the Internet have seen the advertisements for the stay-at-home moms who made $30,000 last month with this “one weird trick.” Many more have seen similar scam emails show up in their inbox offering quick wealth with minimal work. Fraud.org suggests you find out the exact details of any potential employment, including contacting both employees and customers to find out if it is kosher. Remember that when it sounds too good to be true, you can be sure that it is.
I’m A Relative, And I’m In Trouble
A recent email scam that has been circulating the Internet targets senior citizens by having the scammer pretend to be a grandchild or relative in a perilous situation. A common trope is that the grandchild was on vacation in Mexico and ran out of money to buy a plane ticket home. This may not work on seniors who saw their child just the day before, but for those who have not been in touch recently, the email generates a great deal of concern and a willingness to pull out the wallet. Minimize the threat from scam emails and bogus social media accounts by looking into identity protection services via LifeLock. Their Twitter page is full of tips and tricks consumers can use to stay secure. Emails pose a threat to your financial well-being, but scam artists understand that social media can be used just as effectively.
Some emails you receive when you post information online, such as a sale on Craigslist, have you jumping for joy. In some cases, a person is willing to drastically overpay with a cashier’s check and have you mail them the change. Craigslist has a running tally of scams on their site. Be sure to deal with locals you can meet in person to ensure the deal is legitimate. Remember that banks hold you responsible for check fraud, not the scammers.
Report any suspicious emails or social media notifications you may get to the administrator, and check for secure sites that start with “https,” not “http.” As long as you use the Internet with caution and don’t give any information to an untrusted source, your information should stay safe.