October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, so this month we’ll be featuring blogs that focus on keeping your online information protected. For more information visit http://www.staysafeonline.org/ncsam and keep checking the Payza blog for tips on keeping your important data secure.
Just in time for Halloween, Payza has some tips to keep you safe from spooky internet bogeymen. Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the lower your chances of being made a victim by a fraudster with only the wickedest of intentions. There are many different ways fraudsters attempt to get your personal and financial information, the following are three in particular that operate through email:
Student Loan Scam
Regardless of your socioeconomic status, you can still be a victim of phishing scams, even if you’re a student who needs financial aid to pay for your tuition. The student loan scam is done primarily through email; a student who has or has not applied for financial aid is sent an email message from a “student loans company” asking them to verify their personal details. To do so, they will have to click on a link to a website and provide the requested information. Cyber criminals then use this information to gain access to even more personal information, including bank accounts.
If you have not applied for financial aid, simply mark the email as spam and report it to the proper authorities. Even if you have applied for aid, you should still refuse to download any files or provide personal information. Instead contact your financial aid office and ask if they sent the email. If they know about a scam that is being conducted under their name, they can let other people know about it so they also don’t fall victim.
One of these scams took place in the United Kingdom (UK), but similar scams can be recreated anywhere using any credible financial aid company’s good name. You can read more about this UK phishing scam here.
Emergency or “Grandparent” Scam
This type of fraud can occur when you receive an email from a friend or family member who claims to have gone on vacation, gotten mugged, and needs your help, or better yet, your money. If you do as you’re asked, you will never see that money again; eventually you’ll
find out that your friend or relative was not in any trouble at all. The message may have come from your friend’s personal email, but that’s because their account has been hacked, and the hacker now has access to your friend’s contacts.
The “Grandparent Scam” is a variant of the “Emergency Scam” that specifically targets seniors. A con artist will contact their potential victim posing as their grandchild, for example that they are in jail and need bail money. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has more information about this scam here.
You can protect yourself from this scam by contacting your friend or family member to see if everything’s okay. Don’t send the money, at least not until you’ve spoken to your friend directly. Remember, odds are your friend doesn’t know their email account has been hacked, and will now have to contact their email provider to work out a solution to the problem.
You should also speak with your parents or grandparents to make sure they know about the “Grandparent Scam,” and to let them know what to do if they ever get contacted with this type of scenario.
Amazon.com is a highly credible online company that sells books and other products. It’s because they are so well-known and well-reputed that fraudsters use their good name to scam people. This scam involves a phishing email telling you that your order with Amazon has been cancelled. The email will look legit with their logo and all your personal details, but it is actually a spoof – an email designed to look real but isn’t. The email will ask you to provide various personal details, allegedly so Amazon can issue you a refund. Of course, providing your information will not result in a refund, but in the loss of funds.
You can protect yourself from this type of scam by contacting Amazon directly to inquire about the email. They will probably tell you that your order is fine, and that you should forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org to be investigated. Under no circumstances should you reply to the email and provide any sensitive information, no matter how urgent it sounds. Please see the Amazon Help page for more information.
Most, reputable companies will never send you an email asking you to provide personal details or to follow a link and fill in sensitive information. If you get an email from an online merchant that seems suspicious, contact them directly to find out if the email is authentic.
The best way to limit phishing emails is to avoid posting your email address anywhere online. Fraudsters love to surf the internet, adding email addresses to their roster of potential victims. Don’t even open emails that have a suspicious title or that come from sources you don’t trust, just mark them as spam or report them to your country’s authorities so they can deal with the problem.