An ad for cheap drugs, a request for bank information, and someone in Nigeria needs $1,500 in order to send $10 million. These emails are more than just annoying. They are phishing scams, and millions of people fall prey to them every year. With some care, however, phishing scams do not have to put people at risk.
This scam involves sending an email or making a phone call to a particular business’s client, telling them that their account will be deactivated unless the account holder calls a certain number or clicks on a link given in the email. If the recipient takes the bait, those running the scam will request personal information from the client, which they then use to access other personal information or to commit identity fraud.
The approach for financial scams is similar to account deactivation. It may actually be the same, only for a bank, credit-card, or another loan account. Or the scammers, under the auspices of the financial institution, may make an offer to that institution’s clients. When an account-holder requests the offer, the scammers can request personal information and tailor further contact with the client to obtain sensitive account information.
This is popularly known as a “Nigerian” scam, and there are two different approaches. One comes from an ostensible stranger, who claims to have come into a great deal of money, but is having trouble accessing it. He or she offers a significant portion of this money to the email recipient if they only transfer a smaller amount into a specific bank account. Transferring the money, of course, leads to nothing. The other version of this scam includes hacking into a rarely-used email account. The spammers send emails to the account holder’s contacts, asking for a wire transfer. Con artists hope that the familiar email address will move recipients to transfer the money. And, using an email address that the owner rarely checks is less likely to draw suspicion.
Some deals are simply too good to be true. Fake job scams prey on people who are desperate for easy money. They claim to offer large sums of money for work that is either unrealistic or illegal. They may ask recipients to transfer money from one account to another. Either way, the victim is unlikely to receive a dime for any work they may have done. And depending on the task, they may face criminal charges.
Malware scams are probably the most widely recognized and derided. Scammers are looking for people who are not savvy enough to know to only open attachments from trusted sources. Downloading the attachment can cause problems ranging from damage to the computer, to the installation of harmful spyware.
Con artists will develop a website attempting to sell fake or knock-off prescription medicines. They claim to offer the drugs at a drastically reduced rate. Since the content of the drugs cannot be verified to have been regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, it could be a placebo or some dangerous combination. By requesting potential consumers’ bank or credit card information, they also fall into the category of financial fraud.
In retrospect, the premise of most phishing scams seems ridiculous. Simply contacting one’s bank or other business institution will quickly determine the credibility of the “account deactivation” emails. And virus-ridden attachments need not cause harm if people only know when to delete them and move on. The best protection against phishing scams, then, is to ask questions before openly accepting any terms. In addition, it is also a good idea to check with someone who has an online information security degree for help, as well. You can never be too careful with your personal information.