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Be alert for phishing emails

Safety and Security Tips for Individuals


In a recent blog post, we provided some online safety tips to always keep in mind. Given the nature of the internet, however, your digital safety is something to constantly remember.

While it’s easy to assume you won’t be a target of cybercrime, you can’t take anything for granted while checking your email or paying the bills.

The following safety reminders are helpful to know throughout the rest of the holidays and beyond.

Look Out for Fake Company Scams

Phishing is when a fake email is designed to resemble one from a legitimate company. Criminals try to trick you into clicking a harmful link and ask you to provide sensitive login information. Other types of phishing attempts may resemble your bank or credit card company as an attempt to steal your login information and access your finances.

Phishing is a widespread issue, but you can spot scam emails or online messages. As deceiving as some aspects of fake emails may be, they usually contain errors or obviously giveaways.

“Poor spelling and grammar are two signs of phishing.”

Poor spelling and grammar are two such signs. Even though criminals put a lot of effort into phishing schemes, their English may not always be the strongest. Remember, companies typically have a staff of copy editors review emails before they’re sent out to prevent errors. Pay attention to the grammar as well, and if a sentence doesn’t make sense, it’s best to delete it.

Phishing emails often contain links meant to get you to click. However, a phishing link is malicious, and you can spot a fake website by letting your cursor hover it. A small popup window that appears by the cursor will display showing the website.

Harmful links can be spotted because a small popup window will instead display a string of characters that don’t relate to a company’s website in any way. These links are an integral part of phishing schemes, as these messages also contain threats and “warn” you of the consequences if you don’t click.

Since phishing attempts mimic real emails from companies you trust, it’s natural to think something might actually be wrong with your account. You should always manually type in a website and contact customer service before clicking any links.

Scams are unfortunately not only limited to the private sector.

IRS Scams

When a call from supposedly the IRS pops up, your first inclination is to deal with it as quickly as possible. But that call might be a scam.

The IRS has routinely issued reminders about scams. Callers claim they’re IRS agents and will try to trick you into sharing private information, usually by stating you have a refund due.

That being said, the IRS can give you a ring at some point. Keep the following points in mind to know if you’re the target of an IRS scam:

  • You’re threatened with arrest
  • The caller is asking for a very specific form of payment, such as prepaid debit card
  • You’re asked to make an immediate payment
  • You aren’t allowed to question or appeal an amount you supposedly owe
  • The caller asks for credit or debit card information

The IRS will never ask for sensitive information, demand immediate payment or threaten you with jail.

Furthermore, the IRS doesn’t use unsolicited emails, text messages or emails. The IRS is also aware of phishing attempts in its name, but these aren’t the only ones. Criminals will attempt to use the tax code’s complexity to scheme you out of money. The IRS compiled a list of common schemes and what they entail here.

If at any time you’re the victim of an IRS scam, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

@ symbolIf an email seems suspicious, it may be a phishing attempt.

Faulty Gift Cards

Before purchasing a gift card, check to ensure it’s brand new. Flip a card over to see if the code has been scratched out already.

Criminals will go to great lengths to steal money from gift cards, such as writing down numbers beforehand and checking to see when a card is activated. At that point, a criminal will drain the card’s balance before the recipient has even had a chance to buy anything.

Luckily, retailers will refund a gift card’s full amount should that happen. Purchase gift cards from well-known retailers and always check for signs of tampering. Additionally, hold onto receipts in case a gift card’s balance was stolen.

Falling victim to phishing or fake schemes isn’t fun. Phony emails might not seem like much at first, but one wrong click and criminals might have access to your checking and savings accounts.

You aren’t invincible while online, but as long as you remain cautious, you’ll be able to protect yourself from all types of threats.