No, I’m not referring to that canned food product your mother made you eat for lunch when you were a kid. I’m referring to the electronic kind of unsolicited junk mail we get in our daily emails.
Being ever vigilant on the nature of one’s email correspondence is a priority in our office, but every now and then one bad piece of mail gets past us… and what happens next isn’t pretty.
I’m referring, of course, to fraudulent practices used by some crooks to take information from our computer by deception. A practice by which an email is sent using a well-known name (senders like UPS, Amazon, PayPal, or The Internal Revenue Service to name a few) asking for personal information -- what is now called “PHISHING.”
It’s Not that Obvious Anymore
Some of these emails in the past were very basic and pretty simple. An email comes to you saying that you just inherited $2 million and you need to contact a bank representative and send them a check or your credit card number for $500 to cover processing. I received three of these last week. These money deals are obviously all bogus.
Sadly, they are now even using countries currently in the news to make it seem more legitimate. For example: A wealthy resident of Syria who wants to move a large amount of funds from his war-torn country and will ask you to get involved for a percentage.
UPS Has a Package for You! (Or Do They?)
A new twist came through my office two weeks ago. Instead of asking for my personal information, the email asked me to download a .zip file.
This email looked like it was sent from the United States Postal Service and advised that a parcel could not be delivered during normal business hours. In order to retrieve my package, I would need to open the attached file to print a label and take it to my local post office.
Unfortunately, one of my co-workers thought it was legit and upon opening the file sent a nasty virus throughout our entire computer network.
The post office and other legitimate entities do not operate in this manner and do not request personal information via email. There are things you can look out for in emails to detect if they are “phishing,” and if you are still unsure your best bet is to call the company directly (using a number listed on a bill or other correspondence) and ask if the request is genuine.
How You Can Prevent a Nasty Virus (and Protect Your Identity)
Whether this is an unsolicited offer trying to sell you something, a virus, or a deceptive piece of advertising trying to garner your personal information to steal your identity (social security number or date of birth), the number of these bogus emails seems to be increasing. As if that wasn’t enough, they are also getting better at looking like legitimate requests.
How to Screen Your Email for Phishing and Viruses:
- Do not open an attached file or click on a link from anyone you do not know or don’t do business with.
- Check the return address and see if it matches the party who is sending you the email. (If the email says it is from Amazon, but the return address is from someone else, rest assured it is a phony!)
- Make sure you have proper anti-virus software to protect your computer from these kinds of hackers and that your email is properly filtering the spam based on its content.
- Contact the company directly if you feel it may be a genuine request. However, don’t call any phone numbers listed in the suspected email.
- Are there a lot of misspellings and weird phrases in the email? It is likely to be SPAM.
Share this post with your office, family, and friends to help spread awareness of these new email scams and always be wary of suspicious looking messages!