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Are you receiving emails or texts from an individual or company that you know but something seems a little fishy?  Perhaps a friend wants you to review a google document but it’s just a link with no text in the body of the email. Or maybe it’s an email from your boss asking for employee records which he or she normally wouldn’t review.  How about a text from bank asking you to verify your account number? Scammers will often utilize a form of scamming known as “phishing” in order to steal private information from consumers.

Here are some red flags that signify a phishing scam:

  • There are odd links or attachments—watch out as these may contain malware
  • The call/ text requires your immediate attention or else
  • The email contains many basic grammatical or spelling errors
  • The request is unusual and not something you’ve normally provided via email or through text.

Phishing scams can also occur over the phone as scammers use spoofing technology to make the phone number appear local or as a specific company. Scammers may also know some basic information such as the last four digits of your Social Security number and request that you provide the full number to validate your identity. This is known as spear phishing.

Here are a few simple tactics can be used to help you avoid phishing traps:

  • Be a little skeptic—would your bank send you an email requesting personal or financial information? If you’re unsure, give the requester a call and verify that they sent the text/email.
  • Check the sender’s email address. You can usually view the full email address by hovering over the sender’s name or by clicking the “see details” or “full details” option. If the email isn’t from the domain it claims to be, delete it.
  • Use two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication requires not only your username and password but also a one-time code to access accounts.
  • Use caution before clicking on a link. Ask your friend or colleague if they really sent the link.
  • Connect securely. Go to official websites and log-in from there. Scammers can easily create mimic sites which look almost identical to official websites. Use the URL you’ve already verified and use sites that contain “https://” in the URL and the padlock symbol.
  • Use a firewall and updated antivirus/anti-malware protection: keep your devices up to date with the latest operating systems
  • Change your passwords often and refrain from using passwords which can be easily discovered, for example, a child’s name or birth date.

If you fall for a phishing scam and are concerned about identity theft:

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s vehicular and customized wheelchair Lemon Laws and Arbitration Programs, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

 

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