Internet, Email & Text Scams

Most people are now online—we all need to be prepared for the latest forms of fraud. Misbranded emails pretending to be a bank or government agency, misleading popup ads, and direct messages from fake social media accounts can lure users to give money or enter sensitive personal information.

Phishing & Identity Theft

Some of the most common scams take place in your email or text message inbox. Criminals attempt to convince you that an email or text is coming from your bank, utility, PayPal or another trusted vendor. Then, they steal your identity or install a virus. This tactic is called “phishing” and impacts thousands of people each day.

Signs & Tips

  • Many spam messages revolve around an “urgent” notice claiming that a bank account has been “compromised.” Then, after you click the provided link, scammers request your Social Security number and date of birth to “verify your identity.”
    With this information in hand, they can steal your identity. Never share sensitive information when interacting with an unsolicited email or text — no bank or utility should ever ask for this information.
  • Any message with typos, shortened or misspelled links, poor grammar or non- standard designs should raise a red flag. If the message does not mention your name, there’s a good chance the message is a mass distributed spam email. Never click on links or download files or photos unless you fully trust the sender.
  • Phishing emails and texts, just like scam phone calls and letters, often feature high-pressure sales pitches, a benefit that is too good to be true, direct requests for a specific type of payment or invasive personal questions. If in doubt, seek verification from the vendor supposedly represented by the message via telephone using a number pulled from the back of a credit card, a bill or another independent source.

Spam Ads & Pop-Ups

Browsing the internet, you may come across pop-up ads, banner ads and fake news links that will lead to websites that may lure you into downloading a virus, giving up personal information or purchasing a knock-off product.

Signs & Tips

  • Any new window that pops-up over what you’re doing on your computer or phone should immediately be considered with a skeptical eye. Most legitimate advertisers no longer use pop-up ads.
  • Fake pop-ups often feature spelling mistakes, poor grammar or unprofessional images. Any pop-up message mentioning security issues that looks different than normal notifications from your anti-virus should not be clicked. If possible, close the window. If you’re unable to close the window, restart your computer and run a trusted anti-virus scanner. If you are unable to exit the window, click CTRL+ALT+DEL to restart your computer or end the browser process using the “Task Manager.” Ask for help from a friend or family member if needed.
  • Anti-virus, tech support and other software providers never demand you call If a pop-up asks you to make a phone call, ignore it or check the validity of the number by using a search engine like Google. Never give remote access to your computer to an unfamiliar party.

Social Media Messages & Stolen Identities

It’s easy to create a fake social media account. All a criminal needs is a photo and a name and they can replicate someone’s identity on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms. Then, they can send a message to all the victim’s friends asking for money or a donation.

Signs & Tips

  • Be careful if you receive a social media message from an acquaintance you don’t speak with regularly, particularly if they claim to “not have their debit card on them” or are “stuck abroad” and need quick cash to get out of a sticky situation. Be particularly suspicious if they request gif cards, a wire transfer or a Venmo deposit.
  • Some messages may come from accounts posing as close friends, family or even a celebrity. Do some basic research to confirm the identity before responding. Is the account new? Does it have few followers or friends? Are its posts full of stock photos or unoriginal content? If so, it may be a cloned account.
  • If you’re ever unsure of an account’s veracity, reach out to that friend via phone, text or email to confirm that the message was real. If it was not, report the account to the social media company.

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