Protecting Yourself from the Rising Threat of Online Fraud

Protecting Yourself from the Rising Threat of Online Fraud

Online fraud has become a serious concern for consumers as the number of cases continues to rise. The internet has made it easier for fraudsters to target unsuspecting individuals and steal their personal and financial information. As a result, consumers need to be aware of the risks and take steps to protect themselves. 

One of the most common forms of online fraud is phishing, where fraudsters send emails or messages that appear to be from reputable companies, asking for personal information such as login credentials or credit card details. Consumers should be wary of unsolicited emails or messages and avoid clicking links or downloading attachments from unknown sources. However, phishing emails often have common characteristics; they are frequently constructed to trigger emotions such as curiosity, sympathy, fear, and greed. Here are some tips on spotting a phishing email: 

1. Emails Demanding Urgent Action - Emails threatening a negative consequence, or a loss of opportunity unless urgent action is taken, are often phishing emails. 

2. Emails with Bad Grammar and Spelling Mistakes - Another way to spot phishing is bad grammar and spelling mistakes. Many companies apply spell-checking tools to outgoing emails by default to ensure their emails are grammatically correct. 

3. Emails with an Unfamiliar Greeting or Salutation - Emails exchanged between work colleagues usually have an informal salutation. Those that start “Dear” or contain phrases not normally used in informal conversation, are from sources unfamiliar with the style of office interaction used in your business and should arouse suspicion.

4. Inconsistencies in Email Addresses, Links & Domain Names - Another way how to spot phishing is by finding inconsistencies in email addresses, links, and domain names. Does the email originate from an organization that is corresponded with often? If so, check the sender’s address against previous emails from the same organization. Look to see if a link is legitimate by hovering the mouse pointer over the link to see what pops up. If an email allegedly originates from (say) Google, but the domain name reads something else, report the email as a phishing attack.

5. Suspicious Attachments - Most work-related file sharing now takes place via collaboration tools such as SharePoint, OneDrive, or Dropbox. Therefore internal emails with attachments should always be treated suspiciously – especially if they have an unfamiliar extension or one commonly associated with malware (.zip, .exe, .scr, etc.).

6. Emails Requesting Login Credentials, Payment Information, or Sensitive Data - Emails originating from an unexpected or unfamiliar sender that requests login credentials, payment information, or other sensitive data should always be treated with caution. Spear phishers can forge login pages to look similar to the real thing and send an email containing a link that directs the recipient to the fake page. Whenever a recipient is redirected to a login page or told a payment is due, they should refrain from inputting information unless they are 100% certain the email is legitimate.

7. Too Good-to-Be-True Emails  - Too good-to-be-true emails are those which incentivize the recipient to click on a link or open an attachment by claiming there will be a reward of some nature. If the sender of the email is unfamiliar or the recipient did not initiate the contact, the likelihood is this is a phishing email.

Another form of online fraud is identity theft, where fraudsters steal personal information such as name, address, and social security number and use it to open new credit accounts or make fraudulent purchases. Consumers can protect themselves by regularly checking their credit reports and monitoring their financial accounts for suspicious activity. To learn how to set up alerts on your Members 1st account, click here

In addition to these types of online fraud, consumers should also be aware of scams involving fake websites, online auctions, and social media. Fraudsters create fake websites or social media profiles to trick consumers into giving them money or personal information. By being aware of the risks and taking steps to protect themselves, consumers can reduce their chances of becoming victims of online fraud. It is important to stay vigilant and cautious when using the internet to ensure the safety of personal and financial information.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

A lot of the things that consumers need to do are things that we've all been told for many years. Things like:

  • Use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication when it's available.
  • Never share passwords or personal information.
  • Check your bank statements regularly, or set up alerts for when money is spent. Click here to learn how to set up eStatements.
  • Get your free annual credit report and set up credit freezes. To get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company, click here.
  • Proactively ensure that others in your family are educated and protected.

In times of economic uncertainty, though, consumers need to guard themselves against the voice that tells them to take a chance on a deal they feel they can't miss out on. If it looks too good to be true, it very often is precisely that. Fraudsters are frequently psychologically astute. They know how to leverage insecurities and human weaknesses. During economic uncertainty, consumers must be extra careful to guard against falling into the resulting traps, however tempting the offer might look.

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