Beware links in emails

Links may not deliver the result you expect.

With the holiday season, we can expect to receive deceptive emails that try to trick us into clicking links to bogus web sites. These emails are sent by the millions and you may receive one despite your email provider’s best efforts to protect you from malicious emails.

There are many tricks that scammers use to get you to read, and ultimately click, their ‘bait’ email. The often will use a current event or an interesting celebrity to entice you into opening their email in the first place, then tantalize you with some sneaky message that lures you into clicking their special link.

Often, the scam is simple. Find some nice person and tell them a sad story to beg for assistance. Find a celebrity and send messages that you have a secret mail from the celebrity or some special offers about the celebrity. It often is some promise of a picture or a video. The fraudsters often play on your emotions with subtle, leading headlines and subjects.

Usually these bad guys are seeking to steal your money, or get you to help them in some criminal plan that makes them money. The worst are those seeking to steal your identity or uncover personal information.

• Be wary of any email from an unknown sender. Real emails are consistent, the sender’s name and email address should match.
• Be suspicious of an email from someone you know, but which is not typical for them, such as a personal request from a distant associate.
• Never trust emails asking you to go to a web site to get more information.
• Scammers often rely on honest people who want to help in an hour of need.
• If you get an email that seems to be legitimate, you can contact the company by looking up their phone number from an official phone book.
• If you get any mail asking for information about your workplace, what you do, who you know, or for any inside information about yourself, be very wary.
• Official correspondence from outside agencies can always be confirmed by calling the agency or the contact who is claiming to write you.
• If you get an email that provides you with names, addresses and phone numbers, you cannot assume that the mail really came from that person or agency.

In particular, beware “Phishing Scams”

Phishing scams are usually operated through a seemingly authentic e-mail to a victim. The message appears to have been sent from a reliable source, like your bank or a national organization. Scammers may claim that a bank account has been compromised and that you need to verify your information in order to access your account again. The link that appears in the message is designed to fool you. It actually leads you to a website that is crafted to appear to be the real web site (for instance a bank or a company you do business with).

To fool you, the website is a copycat page with a form to fill in with your log-in and personal information.

Scammers then obtain your log-in, billing, and private information to store for fraudulent purposes.

Banks and professional organizations usually do not use an e-mail when their customers’ accounts are compromised. If you are in doubt, call Customer Service for the bank or company. If the email contains a phone number for the bank, do not trust it. Look the organization up at an official listing service and call Customer Service directly to report a suspicious email.

Always contact the establishment by phone or postal mail if you receive any e-mail that appears questionable.

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