To catch a ‘phish’

via Moak: To catch a ‘phish’, clarionledger.com

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is warning consumers about emails that appear to be from a legitimate business, but are actually designed to commit identity theft.

According to a news release from Hood’s officeWednesday, the so-called “phishing” email message attempted to gain the trust of consumers by claiming to be from a Memphis-based financial institution, but was in reality an attempt to gain access to their banking information. “(T)he scammers in this latest email ruse stole company letterhead and used language in the email that initially makes it appear that the customer is being contacted by the institution,” noted the release. “However, a closer look shows that the email is illegitimate.” And, brazenly, the message included verbiage warning consumers about the dangers of spam email.

“As we rely more and more on technology in our daily lives, scammers respond with increasingly sophisticated ways to use technology to cheat and steal,” Hood said. “Fortunately, there are often some red flags that can help consumers spot these brazen attempts at fraud and identity theft.”

Some of those red flags included grammatical errors and inconsistent fonts that were present in the purported bank message.

Phishing is one of many tactics used successfully by scammers. Although they’re sometimes poorly-executed as this one was, sometimes, the thieves take pains to ensure they look legitimate. They may contain actual logos of known businesses and financial institutions, and often use scare tactics to get consumers to click on links or request a response. For example, they might say your account has been compromised, or that you are in danger of losing money or benefits. By clicking on links or replying, unwitting consumers can open themselves to becoming victims.

Hood provided these recommendations:

  • Never provide personal or financial information in response to any unsolicited email or text. Instead, delete them and don’t respond.
  • Keep in mind that financial institutions themselves will not seek to “verify” such information as bank account or credit card numbers, since that particular information is generated and maintained by the institution itself.
  • Don’t open links or attachments on any unsolicited emails or text messages that request personal, financial or account information. It is likely such links and attachments lead to viruses and malware designed to steal data.
  • Always be suspicious of anyone who emails or sends a text message and asks for money to be wired or placed on a prepaid debit card.
  • If you get a suspicious email or text message, contact the business supposedly sending the message to let the business know its name is being fraudulently used in a phishing attempt.
  • If you’ve been victimized, or think you might be, contact the Consumer Protection Division of the attorney general’s Office at (800) 281-4418.

For more information, visit http://www.ago.state.ms.us/victims/identity-theft/.

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