Scams are on the rise. Protect yourself, don’t become a victim (part 2).

Image representing a secure computer.

Last month, we provided some tips on how to identify recent scams. This is part 2 of our series on how to identify them and what to watch for.

E-mail Fraud/Phishing – What is Phishing?

Phishing is a general term for e-mails, text messages and websites fabricated and sent by criminals and designed to look like they come from well-known and trusted businesses, financial institutions and government agencies in an attempt to collect personal, financial and sensitive information.  It’s also known as brand spoofing.

Characteristics: 

•            The content of a phishing e-mail or text message is intended to trigger a quick reaction from you. It can be unsettling, might contain exciting information or demand an urgent response.  Phishing messages are normally not personalized.  

•            Typically, phishing messages will ask you to “update,” “validate,” or “confirm” your account information or face dire consequences.  They might even ask you to make a phone call.  

•            Often, the message or website includes official-looking logos and other identifying information taken directly from legitimate websites. Government, financial institutions and online payment services are common targets of brand spoofing.

Catch phrases:  

•            E-mail Money Transfer Alert:  Please verify this payment information below…

•            It has come to our attention that your online banking profile needs to be updated as part of our continuous efforts to protect your account and reduce instances of fraud… 

•            Dear Online Account Holder, Access To Your Account Is Currently Unavailable…, Important Service Announcement from…, You have 1 unread Security Message!

•            We regret to inform you that we had to lock your bank account access.  Call (telephone number) to restore your bank account.

In some cases, the offending site can modify your browser address bar to make it look legitimate, including the web address of the real site and a secure “https://” prefix.

Information sought: Social Security numbers, full name, date of birth, full address, mother’s maiden name, username and password of online services, driver’s license number, personal identification numbers (PIN), credit card information (numbers, expiry dates and the last three digits printed on the signature panel) and bank account numbers. 

Foreign Government Fraud 

Watch out for emails from senders posing as government or business officials offering to share large sums of money. If you have received an unsolicited letter containing any of the characteristics listed below, you should consider this a scam and delete the email. Most letters are variations of the following:

•            You receive an “urgent” business proposal “in strictest confidence” from a foreign civil servant or businessman.

•            The sender, often a member of the “contract review panel”, obtained your name and profile through the Chamber of Commerce or the International Trade Commission.

•            The sender recently intercepted or has been named beneficiary of the proceeds from real estate, oil products, over-invoiced contracts, cargo shipments, or other commodities, and needs a foreign partner to assist with laundering the money.

•            Since their government/business position prohibits them from opening foreign bank accounts, senders ask you to deposit the sum, usually somewhere between $25-50 million, into your personal account.

•            For your assistance, you will receive between 15-30% of the total, which sits in the “Central Bank of ______” awaiting transfer.

•            To complete the transaction, they ask you to provide your bank name and address, your telephone and fax numbers, the name of your beneficiary, and, of course, your bank account number.

•            The sender promises to forward your share within 10-14 working days!

Money Mule – What is it?

The Money Mule (victim) is recruited – often unknowingly – by scammers to move money made from illegal activity. Money is moved from one bank account to another. By using a money mule, it makes it harder for authorities to track down.

How do people become Money Mules?

Fraudsters approach their money mule victims in a variety of ways including social media, email, mail or phone. Many scams are typically disguised as online job opportunities that promise a fast and easy way to earn money. All they need is your account information to let money be transferred into your account. Then you move the money out of your account for a commission.

These scams look attractive, especially when a little extra income wouldn’t hurt, which is why so many people fall for them. But they are actually helping criminals commit crimes.

Tips:

1.           Be cautious of unsolicited emails and social posts.

2.           Verify company information online or give them a call.

3.           Thoroughly check offers from overseas companies.

4.           Never give out your bank account information.

Remember, do not give out your personal or account information unless you are absolutely sure you know who you are dealing with. If you have any questions or concerns, please call us at 707-443-8662.

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