Price of Business welcomed Tom Kelly, CEO of ID Experts, back to the show to discuss common phishing scams facing Americans today, tips to avoid attempted attacks and the protection options that are available to them. Tom is a recognized expert in this area, providing insight on security and privacy issues to consumers, businesses and even the U.S. Senate. His perspective is particularly valuable these days; according to the IRS, phishing scams increased by 60 percent in 2018, as scammers seek out new ways to deceive consumers.
What exactly is a phishing scam? According to Tom, Criminals reach out with a piece of “bait” – whether it’s a get-rich-quick scheme from a foreign prince, a threat from the IRS, or an alert from a bank warning about fraud – and try to “hook” the individual into clicking on a link in a text message, email or social media message. Clicking on this link exposes a computer to hacking, takeover or malware, or, alternatively, will prompt someone to give up even more information, such as the username and password for an online bank account.
The key to preventing such attacks, according to Tom, is suspicion. Always second-guess any information you receive, unless you’re confident you know where it comes from. And even if the sender claims to be a reliable source, that doesn’t mean they actually are. Criminals frequently impersonate major organizations to trick you into believing their claims. Take a close look at the precise wording of the message. Does it seem cumbersome or clumsy? That’s often a giveaway – many phishing schemes originate overseas with criminals who are not native English speakers.
Pay particularly close attention to text messages. A reputable company or a government agency won’t reach out to you via text message; they do business by email or snail mail. If you receive a text that’s ostensibly from a major bank, the IRS or law enforcement officials, or if you receive a text from a number with an unusual amount of digits, it’s a scammer attempting to scare you into falling for their trick.
Still not sure? Tom recommends hovering your cursor over the link and seeing what it says. If the link looks dubious, don’t click on it. Instead, look up the name and number of the organization and give them a call. If it is them, great; if not, they’ll be grateful you let them know that someone’s impersonating them so they can alert their other customers.
Above all, Tom reminds listeners, don’t be afraid to take it slow. In the world of instant messaging and rapid-fire communication, we often feel the need to respond right away. Take your time to do your research. And if you don’t feel equipped to do the research, or you worry about a child or parent’s inability to do so, ID Experts’ Social Sentry product monitors social media platforms on your behalf, alerting you about scams and other objectionable content so you can delete or report it.