How to handle phishing, smishing attacks
If you feel like more scammers and spammers are flooding your various inboxes, it’s probably because they are.
Fake text messages and emails carrying phishing attempts by virtual scammers have been on the rise since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. And, one of the most prevalent methods scammers are using lately is fake messages claiming to be from an Amazon representative, who could claim to be checking suspicious activity on your account or even a delayed package.
Typically, these phishing or “smishing” attacks – aka SMS phishing – aim to trick you into believing that you are communicating with a legitimate representative of the e-commerce giant. If you’re not careful, you could overload valuable personal information from your credit card information to log into your online accounts, or click on malware-infected links that infect your devices with viruses.
The Federal Trade Commission reports that American consumers collectively lost about $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021, up 70% from the previous year. About a third of that came from scams by imposters.
So what can you do to make sure you’re not fooled by one of these increasingly common spammer scams?
How to spot scams
Do not click on any links or share any personal information unless you are absolutely sure you are talking to a genuine representative of Amazon or any other legitimate business or organization.
The FTC notes that there are several telltale signs often associated with scammers, who can “use a variety of ever-changing stories to try to trick you.” These include:
- Promise you’ve won a free prize
- Offer a low-interest form of credit
- Alert you to suspicious account activity
- Say there’s a problem with your payment information
- Send you a fake invoice
Amazon itself offers an online guide to help its customers identify suspicious messages posing as official communications from Amazon. The company says red flags include order confirmations for items you didn’t order and messages with grammatical errors or prompts to install software.
The company says that if you’re unsure about a message asking for updated payment information, you should go to the “Your Orders” page in your online Amazon account. “If you are not prompted to update your payment method on this screen, the message is not from Amazon,” the company says.
Many scammers rely on “spoofing,” a practice that tricks your phone’s caller ID into thinking you’re receiving a text or call from someone you trust. In some cases, they even mimic your own number, making it look like you’re calling or texting each other.
So, to be even more careful, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends that you “never share your personal or financial information via email, text, or phone.”
How to block and report spammers
If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of a particular text or email, the FTC advises you to contact the “verifiable customer service line” of the company or institution. Visit the company’s website to find a valid contact number or email address, rather than replying to the message you received.
The easiest way to stop receiving suspicious messages is to block phone numbers or email addresses that send you messages. You can also manage your phone’s filters to filter out calls or texts from unknown numbers.
Unfortunately, some scammers use different numbers or addresses for each message they send, leaving you to play a game of virtual Whack-a-Mole, constantly blocking suspicious numbers and emails while scammers scan through new ones. .
At this point, consider reporting spam and phishing attempts to your cellphone carrier or email service, as well as to government agencies, including the FTC’s Online Fraud Complaint Form and Internet Crime Complaint from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
If the alleged scammer claims to represent a specific company like Amazon or a government entity, you can also try to report the attempt to the actual organization. Amazon suggests visiting the company’s “Report anything suspicious” page in its customer service section, where you can report any text messages, emails, or phone calls you’ve received that you suspect aren’t from Amazon. .
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