If there’s a way to cheat someone out of money via email, then you can bet someone has not only thought of it but is also engaging in it. These are known as “phishing schemes.” They’re just what they sound like: an online crook’s attempt to fish for your personal information. Although online scammers adopt new tactics each day in order to stay ahead of law enforcement, the signs of an email scam remain pretty similar.
According to Dolman Law Group, the goal of most email scams is to go to a webpage that tricks you into disclosing your personal information or open a corrupt file. That’s really the bottom line. Online fraud includes attempts at extracting passwords to bank accounts, your Social Security number or even outright attempts at getting you to send money to someone. The people who operate these schemes want to trick you into giving them your sensitive information, which they later intend on using to open lines of credit in your name, sell to others or get you to send them money outright.
Beware of Dangers
Email fraud has some common characteristics. Usually, fraudsters will send you a message, often under the guise of your bank or a vendor you trust and use often. In these emails, they’ll suggest that you go to their website to confirm your password, send you bogus contest information, tell you that they’ve seen questionable activity on your account, inform you that one of your loved ones is in trouble and needs cash, ask you to update your security information or request that you click on the link they’ve sent in order to send them a payment. According to the University of Wisconsin, if you see a link in an email, you should always hover over it with your mouse to see if the URL is legitimate. If it is different than URLs you usually see from the company, it is likely not legitimate.
What to Do if You’ve Been Scammed
If you’ve responded to an email and only afterward realized that it was probably a phishing scheme, there are some specific steps to take. First, you want to file reports with the Federal Trade Commission in its identity-theft division. This allows you to remove bogus accounts from your credit report. You’ll also get a checklist that you can use to keep track of your identity-recovery efforts. You may also want to report the incident to local police, though it may not be necessary after you’ve contacted the FTC. Local police can issue a warning to your community if the incident seems locally based. For example, if your local university has been hacked, then everyone who has a university email is a potential target. Finally, you’ll need to contact the businesses and companies affected by the fraud to let them know that someone is posing as you. This step allows you to close phony accounts that were opened in your name.
Email phishing schemes are now one of the most common types of fraud that occur online. Although they may look different on the surface, they’re always an attempt to get money or information from you that they can use to steal from you. Knowing the signs of a possible fraud scheme is the best way to ensure that you don’t get taken.
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