Mass.gov took to its blog this April to warn consumers against the growing number of phishing scams across the Commonwealth. Here’s a recap and how to get support from a consumer fraud lawyer if you or a loved one were the victim of a phishing scam that caused you to incur significant financial damages.
A Quick Rundown of Phishing Scams
The definition of phishing is sending an email to someone impersonating a “legitimate entity” in order to obtain a person’s identifying, medical, or financial information. This data can then be used to commit various types of fraud, from health insurance fraud to plain theft.
How to Identify a Phishing Scam
Look for these indicators of a phishing scam:
- Offers that are “too good.” If you receive an email for 90% off something, or you are promised fast money, chances are these are too good to be true and may be a phishing scam. Be wary of emails that offer free vacations, luxury vehicles, or other in-demand items that don’t make sense to give away or sell for so cheap.
- Misspelled URLs or hyperlinks. Fake links to carbon-copied websites are often used in phishing emails to send users to an application that will steal their information instead of the actual website of the legitimate company the phishing email is posing as.
- Poorly written emails. If a legitimate company like PayPal or Bank of America sends you an email riddled with typos, spelling errors, and fragmented sentences, chances are it’s from a scammer and not someone actually representing the company.
- Scarcity emails. Emails that ask you to act quickly or offer a limited supply only create a sense of urgency and scarcity that prompts people to click without thinking, potentially downloading a virus or transferring sensitive data.
Examples of Phishing Scams
The “Nigerian Prince” phishing scam is arguably the longest-running scam that is still attempted even to this day. This phishing scam originally involved a person or group pretending to be royalty from Nigeria who was under threat in their home country. This scam involved the solicitation of money from unsuspecting email recipients to help cover the costs of travel and in return, the “prince” would bring their riches with them and triple the email recipient’s generous favor.
As absurd as this sounds, many people initially fell for the scam. Now, these advance-fee type scams are designed differently, with different “characters” and “stories,” but all using the same basic principles.
Another example uses link manipulation, where the email sender links to an almost exact replica of a popular or well-known website. The user clicks on the link and is asked to verify their credentials, which ends up giving their sensitive information, username(s), and password(s) to hackers.
Often, these emails come from what look like legitimate companies, and the websites they go to are very good, if not immaculate copies of the website they are trying to impersonate. It’s often difficult to tell that the website is not actually the correct one if you’re not paying extremely close attention.
Put These Protections Against Phishing In Place
Here are some simple protections against phishing that Mass.gov recommends:
- Use strong, unique passwords for all websites and applications you use. Never reuse the same password on more than one account and consider using a password manager so you can keep track of long, complex passwords.
- Do not click on attachments in emails from untrustworthy sources. Attachments can contain stealth viruses that immediately download onto your computer or mobile device as soon as you open them.
- Do not give your login credentials or verify any information if asked when you are not proactively logging into an account or app. Most legitimate websites will not ask you to confirm this type of information via email.
- Avoid emailing sensitive data. Email applications often have poor security and even legitimate emails can be intercepted by phishing artists looking for emails containing this kind of information.
- Call the sender. If someone sends you an attachment, call them up and verify they meant to send it, the file name, etc. If you can’t reach the sender or there’s no contact information, it’s likely fraud.
How a Massachusetts Consumer Fraud Attorney Can Help
If you, your business, or someone you care about were impacted by a phishing scam, it serves your best interests to consult with an experienced consumer protection lawyer. At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we understand how frustrating and difficult it is to recover emotionally and financially after falling prey to a phishing scam.
Victims of consumer fraud have legal options available to them. Contact us to learn yours at (978) 744-8000 or toll-free at (855) 693-9084.