August 24, 20234 Popular Email Scams and How to Avoid Them
Nowadays, it seems like a day doesn’t go by without someone trying to lure you into a scam. Whether through text messages, social media, robocalls, or email, fraudsters always work overtime. And just when you think you know all their moves, a new ploy lands on your lap.
Countless people fall victim to fraud annually. Your best defense to avoid these traps is to stay informed on how they operate. Today, we’re sharing four popular phishing scams guaranteed to land in your email inbox and tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is a type of fraud where scammers are “fishing” for your personal or financial information. You’ll typically receive a message directing you to a malicious website. These websites can appear authentic, often replicating popular retailers and other businesses. Their goal is to have you enter personal information on their website. Sometimes, clicking the link will install malware on your device that tracks your online activities and keystrokes – providing access to private data.
Popular Email Scams to Avoid
Businesses sending surveys to their customers is commonplace today. Anytime you make a purchase somewhere, a survey is likely to follow, which is why these scams can be so deceiving.
Scammers will create a fake email replicating a survey from a popular retailer. Once you click on the link, you’ll be redirected to a malicious website that appears authentic. Usually, at the end of a quick survey, you’ll receive a special offer or be entered to win a prize after you provide contact information. Some sites might ask you to log into your account with the associated business. Again, the ploy is obtaining your personal information or login credentials.
You’ll often encounter blocked email or server scams through your work email. Hackers can quickly look up which company hosts your company’s website. Then, they send emails spoofing (mimicking) that company, alerting you to emails blocked or quarantined by your email server.
To retrieve the blocked emails, you need to release them from the server by clicking a link. The link is often malicious and will install malware on your device.
What’s an easy way for people to respond to your email quickly? Pretend to take their money, of course! These scams prey on fear that your money was taken without your permission.
You’ll typically receive an email from a reputable company with an invoice attached for an item or service you did not purchase. It could be an expensive computer or TV from Amazon or a costly service like computer protection from Geek Squad. The email provides a receipt for the order, which you can cancel by clicking a link or calling a phone number.
The fraudster’s goal is to have you reach out to them and provide your debit or credit card information so they can “cancel” the order.
Banned Social Media Accounts
Social media is one of the most popular forms of communication today, which is why it’s commonly targeted. Scammers know people will panic and respond if they are removed from a social platform.
Fraudsters routinely send out varying emails notifying you that you’re banned from the platform or temporarily restricted. The most common reason is that you violated copyright laws. The email goes on to say that you can request a review of your account by clicking the provided link.
Often, the links themselves are malicious. But more commonly, fraudsters are trying to gain access to your social account so they can message your friends asking for money, etc.
How to Protect Yourself from Phishing Scams
With criminals constantly altering their scams, keeping up with the latest ploys can be hard. However, there are tell-tale ways to identify scams and moves you can make to protect yourself.
- Identify the Sender:
Anytime you receive an email that appears suspicious, check the sender’s email address. Don’t rely on the “name” they have listed – look at the actual email address. It’s usually a dead giveaway as it will be from an email unrelated to the business they are claiming to be.
- Hover Over Links:
Before clicking on a link in an email, hover over it with your cursor. Most email providers will display the link URL without you having to click it. If the web address seems suspicious or doesn’t link to a URL associated with the business, don’t click it.
- Verify the URL is Secure:
You can easily verify whether a link or website is secure by the URL. A secured link will begin with “https://” where the “s” means secure. Unsecure links will appear as “http://”.
If you’re already on a website, most browsers will also display a lock icon in the web address as a simple means to identify a secure site.
- Install Virus Protection:
It’s highly recommended that you install virus and malware protection on all your devices. Most antivirus companies today offer plans that protect your computers, tablets, and phones.
Regularly run scans on your devices and ensure your protection is up to date to avoid the latest scams.
- Visit the URL Directly:
If you receive an email from your financial institution or another business claiming there is an error on your account, don’t click the link. Instead, visit the company’s website directly and log into your account to look for any alerts.
We’re Here to Help!
Scams continue to evolve, and the best way to protect yourself is to stay in the know. While we strive to offer the best protection to your accounts, most phishing scams rely on you voluntarily providing your personal information to fraudsters. Always be cautious of unsolicited emails, and never click a link that appears suspicious.
If you believe you are a victim of a scam, please contact us immediately. You can stop by any of our branch locations or call 800-226-6673 to speak directly with a Member Advocate.
Each individual’s financial situation is unique and readers are encouraged to contact PEFCU when seeking financial advice on the products and services discussed. This article is for educational purposes only; the authors assume no legal responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the contents.