Beware of Phishing Scams in Times of Crisis


We are currently in the midst of an unprecedented crisis with COVID-19, but any crisis opens you up to technology vulnerabilities.  With the ability to track your online activity, hackers can target you when you are least able to protect yourself.  One common technique to exploit your online vulnerability is a phishing scam. A hacker sends a seemingly official email from a service provider or creditor which is meant to get your personal information.

Why Are Phishing Scams Successful?

Phishing scams depend on a couple of things to be successful.  Most prominent is a lack of attention and awareness.  As with all crime, you need to be cognizant that there are criminals working tirelessly to steal your information.

Another key aspect is your desire to avoid disruption on a key account or with a service provider. A crisis only amplifies it. Imagine being without Netflix during this shelter-in-place. Think about how you would be impacted if the account that you survive on was frozen.  These scenarios create fear, which drives you to make quick, and sometimes wrong, decisions.

Finally, during a crisis, you are undoubtedly stressed and likely over-tired.  This also clouds your judgement and makes you even more susceptible to making wrong decisions.  The good news is that a phishing scam’s success depends on you making the wrong decision and undertaking the wrong actions. What this means is that you can protect yourself.

Beware of These Emails

The picture below is of an actual phishing email that I received. It is a great tool to help you avoid scams and hackers in pandemics or other disruptions, like divorce, when your browsing history could identify you as a possible mark.  The good news is that if you keep an eye out for several key characteristics, you can thwart their nefarious intent. 


How Can You Tell Your Baiting A Phisherman?

  1. Odd Email Addresses.  Any time you see an email alert, check the source and recipient emails.  On the example, you can see that the from email has nothing to do with PayPal.  Additionally, the recipient is not to an individual email, but to something other than the actual intended recipient.
  2. Creditors and service providers will never send their emails with attachment.  If you see one, put up your guard.  Do not, under any circumstances, open it.
  3. Poor Quality Graphics. Companies spend a lot of money to develop and promote their brand.  As a result, they will ensure that email correspondence has the highest quality versions.  Something that looks cut and pasted or grainy should be a red flag.
  4. Directions to Login and Provide Information. Service providers will not ask you to login directly from an email.  An alert may let you know of an issue, but the instructions will likely be to contact them to resolve, usually through the means that you customarily do so.

You need to always be aware of hackers and scammers.  They are always out there and always looking for a way to exploit opportunities.  Times of crisis are a perfect time for them to take advantage of your personal vulnerabilities or when you may not be fully paying attention.  You should always be alert to protect yourself and follow the basic steps to avoid phishing scams.  If you have questions, contact the alleged source and clarify whether all is OK with your account.

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