Unsolicited Calls, Texts & Emails – Protect Yourself from Phishing Scams

Kristina Kraus
Greater Nevada Credit Union
It’s sad to say but many of us have experienced, or at least know someone who has had their credit card or debit card information stolen. In our digital age, we no longer fear the purse snatcher but instead have to worry about cyber thieves stealing our money or identity.

When you think of your information getting stolen, you might think it’s due to an online shopping incident or a gas station that got hacked. However, in today’s rapidly changing world it’s not just those types of circumstances anymore.

When internet frauds trick you into giving up your personal information, this is called phishing. You can be the victim of a phishing scam from all sorts of ways, such as through an email, a phone call, or even a text message. Learn how to identify these scams and take preventative action.

Avoid Fake Emails

Similar to getting hacked on an unsecure website, cyber thieves can steal your information by sending you an email with malware in it. The email often looks real or might come from a business you know which will often get people to click. The malware can then send all of your personal and sensitive information straight to the hacker’s computer. To avoid getting hacked through a fake email, look out for these common signs that indicate the message is not legitimate.
  • Unrecognized sender, especially if there is an attachment or they have indicated you just won something and need to act immediately to claim your prize.
  • Asking to confirm personal or financial information. These can often come disguised as your financial institution emailing you. However, email is not a secure communication method so a financial institution would never ask you to send your personal information this way.
  • Threatening emails to close your account if you don’t respond quickly. If you get a message like this, do not respond via email. Instead separately look up the business yourself and verify your account over the phone. Do not trust any phone numbers that are in the email.
Never send out personal information via email yourself either. You don’t know if the person you are sending it to has a secured computer or if your own email account might get compromised in the future.

Phone Calls & Texts

More and more, phishing scams are happening on our smart phones. Hackers know that most people have their cell phones with them all day long and are more likely to answer a phone call or respond to a text message. Be suspicious during a phone call if you hear any of the following:
  • You’ve won or been selected for a special offer. If you did not sign up for anything then chances are it’s too good to be true and you should end the call.
  • Pressuring to act immediately. If you have to make up your mind right away about something it’s because the scammers don’t want to give you a chance to think, they just want you to say yes.
  • Asking for your credit card. If someone calls you trying to sell you something and they need your card information, say “no thanks” and hang up.
Even if the number that is calling you is from a local area code, it doesn’t mean it is actually local. You should never divulge personal information over the phone unless you initiate the call.

Additionally, with more than 90% of texts messages being opened in the first 15 minutes, thieves are quickly turning to phishing via text. People tend to be more mindless about sending a quick response back via text but it’s important to avoid those urging you to act now, or confirm your personal or banking information, as well.

Take Preventative Action

Along with being able to distinguish a fake email or phone call, there are a few additional precautionary steps that you can take.
  • Keep your computer software up to date. Do you research on the best software that will block new viruses and spyware.
  • Set up account alerts with your financial institution. Be notified whenever there is activity on your accounts.
  • Block pop-ups when you are searching on the internet or only allow trusted sites.  A genuine company should never ask you to submit personal information in pop-up screens.
  • Avoid public computers. If you need to use one, don’t log onto your email or enter any of your personal information.
  • Look for https. Only provide personal or financial information through an organization's website if the site is secure, and the URL begins https – the "s" stands for secure.
No matter the channel you are contacted through, one of the most common businesses a scammer will impersonate is your financial institution. It is important to know what sort of protection and policies your institution has on the matter. To learn about GNCU’s policy on identity theft protection, visit Greater Nevada’s website.

For more tips on how to protect your identity and your family’s, check out our blogs on Avoid Holiday Hackers: How to Keep Your Money Safe and Enjoy the Season or Child Identity Theft: How to Protect Your Children from Fraud
1/16/15