Phishing scams have been making media headlines consistently since 2003. And since then, whether it’s through emails, text messages or phone calls, millions of individuals have been deceived through hacks that appear to come through legitimate sources. The worldwide impact of those phishing scams has reportedly hit more than $5 billion.
The hackers behind phishing scams show no mercy; they mask their attacks under the names of popular and common banks, businesses and subscription services. The scams are designed to grab attention, garner trust and then capture personal identification. That information gives hackers everything they need, to use your personal information to their own advantage.
Phishing scams are happening all around us. It’s important to stay informed and to know what to look out for. Each scam exposes our vulnerabilities, but there’s something to be learned from each that can better protect yourself and your business.
Here’s a look at some of the most publicized phishing scams of 2018:
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Accessing an individual’s taxes is like hitting the million-dollar lottery for hackers. Tax payers have been warned by the IRS to be mindful of unexpected refunds being deposited into accounts this tax season. Hackers have created a system that captures personal identifications from accounting firms and tax professionals. Once information is collected, hackers then use that data to file fraudulent tax returns.
Once returns are filed, the refund is directly deposited into the victims account. But the hack doesn’t stop there. Hackers, who disguise themselves as the IRS, contact holders of the account, explain the error and then request that funds be overturned.
If you’ve heard the rumor that Microsoft is running a 2018 security info update, we can put that rumor to rest now. That update is not real; it’s just another phishing scam. Emails explaining that future communication would be blocked and access to emails would be no longer, have likely come into the inbox of Microsoft users.
The reality though, is that digital hackers are at work, using Microsoft as their disguise to steal the usernames and passwords of individuals with Microsoft Outlook, Hotmail and Live email accounts. Those who fall for the scam unknowingly hand over their personal information directly to hackers.
Notifications to Medicare patients were sent early on, explaining that new insurance cards would be released April 2018. Once the news broke, scammers got to work, targeting Medicare patients with constant calls and text alerts. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services made a public announcement, explaining that while new cards are being released, no charges or fees are associated with the cards themselves.
The announcement was necessary, as Medicare patients were being targeted and told that payment was required prior to the release of the new card. Those who paid the fee, also released credit card and bank account information into the hands of scammers.
Some of the most effective phishing scams happen when hackers mask their attack behind powerful and trusted brands. And that’s exactly what happened with the Apple scam earlier this year. With Apple’s App and iTunes stores, users are able to download applications directly to their mobile device. Scammers created an email that seemingly appeared as official Apple communication. The email messages urged users to renew their subscription service. Those who fell for the scam, released personal information that locked them into a monthly subscription service costing $144.99 per month.
What Can You Do To Protect Yourself Against Phishing Scams?
These phishing scams are just four of the many that have happened this year. There will certainly be more to come. The most effective scams are those that look almost identical to the organization that’s been falsified. So, stay alert and know that you are not exempt from being a target of the next phishing scam. Read emails carefully. Think back to previous communication with the brand and evaluate if the request seems similar or different.
- Does your healthcare company ever demand immediate payment?
- When has your subscription service ever drastically raised its prices?
- Has a brand ever required payment for something that they typically give users for free?
Those are the kinds of questions to ask yourself before clicking yes or handing over personal identification online. You can never be too careful when it comes to the digital paper trail you leave behind.