If Something Seems Fishy, Fraudsters are Probably Phishing

~ By Gerald Rome, Acting Colorado Securities Commissioner ~

Gone are the days of pickpockets and purse snatchers. People can no longer protect themselves by simply avoiding bad neighborhoods and locking their doors. Today’s criminals are moving out of dark alleys and in front of computer screens. Their weapon of choice isn’t a knife or gun, but rather a keyboard and mouse.

I’m talking, of course, about cybercrime. Cybercrime is criminal activity that involves the Internet, a computer system, or computer technology.  One form of cybercrime that is prevalent among seniors is phishing.  Today, I’m going to pass along some some tips that people can follow to protect themselves from phishing.

Gerald Rome

Gerald Rome

Phishing attacks are scams that use spam email or a fake website to lure you into revealing your bank or brokerage account information, passwords or PINs, social security number, or other types of confidential information. The subject matter of the scam can be virtually anything, but typically involves an email that falsely claims to be from a brokerage firm, bank, credit card company, internet site, electronic payment service, or some other service that you use. Other times the email is supposedly from a government agency, such as a seemingly safe email from the “Internal Revenue Service”  regarding your tax refund. Needless to say, nothing is off limits when it comes to a scam.

Most of these emails attempt to lure you into providing personal information by requesting that you provide the personal information in a reply email or by clicking on a link to a website that mimics a legitimate website and asks you for the information. These emails and websites appear to be genuine and often contain the names of real people, legitimate looking email addresses, authentic looking logos and graphics, links to pages of a bona fide website, or official looking fine print and references to laws. They also utilize various “urgent” messages to lower your guard, such as, “Your account will be shut down unless you update your information.”

An email or website requesting personal information needs to be handled with the utmost caution. Here are seven tips to protect you from becoming a victim of a phishing scam or other form of online identity theft:

  1. Beware of emails requesting personal information;
  2. Leave suspicious websites;
  3. Keep your personal and financial information secure online;
  4. Know who you are doing business with;
  5. Check your credit report every year;
  6. Review your account statements; and
  7. Act quickly if you’ve been scammed.

As always, remaining vigilant and being proactive are the best ways to protect yourself and your hard-earned money. If you believe you have been the victim of a scam or are simply concerned about a suspicious financial email, don’t hesitate to contact the Colorado Division of Securities. Our office can be reached at 303-894-2320.

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