In the latest Internet Crime Complaint Center alert, the FBI uses two adjectives to describe cyber criminals: “aggressive” and “creative”. This can mean trouble for those consumers who aren’t on their toes this holiday season. Because the FBI tells us that scammers use a variety of techniques to “fool” us.
For instance, not all classified ads are genuine, and you could find yourself communicating with (and eventually paying) a fraudster.
Or perhaps you try to save money by purchasing a gift card off an auction website for a fraction of its supposed value, only to learn the card was stolen and the merchant has deactivated that number.
Or an email tells of great savings at your favorite store. But the hyperlink takes you to a “spoofed” (fake copy) website where you enter payment into that will be used fraudulently.
But as I wrote above, you’re only in danger if you aren’t paying attention. The FBI reminds us:
Not to respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
Not to click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
To be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Always run a virus scan on attachment before opening.
To avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
Importance of comparing the link in the e-mail to the web address link you are directed to and determine if they match.
Avoiding following a hyperlink from an email, instead going directly to the official Web site for the business identified in the e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.
We should contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify that the e-mail is genuine.
“Act quickly” or emergency requests might indicate it’s a scam since fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act impulsively.
If you receive a request for personal information from a business or financial institution, always look up the main contact information for the requesting company on an independent source (phone book, trusted internet directory, legitimate billing statement, etc.) and use that contact information to verify the legitimacy of the request.
Remember if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Read more from the FBI and IC3 on safe holiday shopping.