The unfortunate truth is that there are some fairly bad guys out there, lurking in the corners of cyber space. They spend all their free time trying to dream up new ways of getting you to give them access to your banking or credit card information so they can rip you off. Fortunately, many of their methods have a number of things in common, making it fairly easy to spot, provided you stay vigilant and know what to look for. Below, you’ll find a primer on what kinds of things to look for in terms of recognizing scams so you don’t get taken in by one.
Requests For Personal Information
Legitimate companies do not do this via email. If you see an email, even if it appears to be from a legitimate vendor that you do business with, and they’re asking you to verify your address, phone number, or even worse, your banking or credit card information, do not reply! Oftentimes, these emails will direct you to contact customer support, and give you a phone number in the email. Never rely on these. They could have a dummy phone line set up and the person you wind up speaking with is very likely in on the scam.
If you have questions, open a new browser window, go to the site that the email supposedly came from, and get the contact information straight from the site. The customer service representative you speak with will be able to tell you whether or not they sent the message, and if you need to update any information, the time, and the proper venue for doing so is while you’re speaking with them on the phone.
Obvious Typos or Misspellings
Sometimes, even corporations make spelling mistakes. I’ve found a few in actual business correspondence, so it does happen. Having said that though, if you find one at all, it’s likely to be just one. You’re very unlikely to see a whole series of them, and the formatting of the message is going to be solid. If the email you’re looking at is sprinkled liberally with mistakes, either in spelling or formatting, just delete it. It’s clearly not legit.
Embedded Links In Emails
It’s one thing if you’ve just created a new account at a website and they send you a verification link. That’s not what I”m talking about. In those cases, since you literally just signed up a moment earlier and are expecting the arrival of the email, those are fine. But barring that, don’t click on any embedded links in emails. If you are directed to a company’s website, open a new tab and surf there manually. It will only take a few seconds longer, and you’re guaranteed to be going to the real company site.
Some, and perhaps even most surveys are fine, but if you’re in the middle of taking one and it asks you for your personal information, stop what you’re doing immediately and close the window. Don’t get taken in. It’s just another underhanded way of getting you to give away information they can use to rip you off.
This one is a common ploy. In these cases, you’re likely to get a very official looking email, gently chastising you for not keeping your address and banking or credit card information current. The email will conveniently provide you with a link where you can immediately go and update your information. Of course, this is nothing but another flavor of the same ploy to get you to willingly give them the information they’re seeking. As before, if you get one of these, open a new browser tab, surf manually to the website in question, and call them. They’ll probably be mystified as to why they’re speaking with you, and then you’ll know for certain.
Anything From Nigeria
Just delete it. Sorry, honest Nigerian business people, but that’s the reality.