Phishing On The Rise: Protect Yourself and Others

By: Kiffanie Phillips

Phishing on the Rise:

We have noticed a spike in clients contacting us about email (“phishing”) scams recently.  While the elderly population is a common target, even tech-savvy users sometimes make a mistake.  It is important to be aware of what to watch for and what to do if you or a loved one may have been the target of a scam.  The following highlights some of the more common scams we see in our practice and what to do if you are concerned that you or a loved one has been scammed.

Lottery Phishing Scams:

Some of the older phishing scams still operate in the same way as when the original scammer sent a fraudulent email claiming that you have won the lottery but need to send money to pay the taxes.  Or that they are royalty and in need of money so that they may access their riches.  These scammers will try to elicit personal information or a prepayment of taxes so that they you award can be distributed.  These are always scams. 

Phishing For Banking Info Scams:

If you ever receive an email from your bank requesting you to update your user profile or user information, double check that was really from your bank.  These emails are carefully crafted to look nearly identical to the types of correspondence that are sent out by actual banks. Skilled phishers can replicate the logos, layout and general tone of such emails to uncanny degrees. Be especially vigilant if the email requests information from you.

Phishing For Personal Info Scams:

A scammer will contact you pretending to be from a legitimate business such a bank, telephone or internet service provider. The scammer asks you to provide or confirm your personal details. For example, the scammer may say that the bank or organization is verifying customer records due to a technical error that wiped out customer data. Or, they may ask you to fill out a customer survey and offer a prize for participating.

Alternatively, the scammer may alert you to unauthorized or suspicious activity on your account. You might be told that a large purchase has been made in a foreign country and asked if you authorized the payment. If you reply that you didn't, the scammer will ask you to confirm your credit card or bank details so the 'bank' can investigate

Medical Services or Device Scams:

For seniors, medical services or device scams are spreading and becoming a more serious concern. While there can be good services offering assistance for seniors, there are many active scammers that offer services to elders that get paid without ever providing an actual service, or only provide one service, but bill Medicare for ten services. 

Help a Family Member Scams:

Often known as the grandparent scam, the scammers call someone they know to be elderly and instantly says, “Hi grandpa (or grandma), do you recognize my voice”? Eventually, they will mistakenly think that it is their grandchild.  Once the grandparent has fallen for the trick, the scammer will ask for money to be sent for some emergency and implore that it has to be kept between the both of them.

Home Improvement Scams:

Always stay alert and sensible about the personal information or money you are sending to people you don’t know, and if it’s a family member, make sure the person you are communicating with is a family member.

What To Do:

If you or a loved one are a victim of a scam, you need not feel ashamed.  Instead, it is important to report the scan.  These scams are taken very seriously by law enforcement.  Reporting can mitigate harm done to you and prevent it from happening to someone else:

  • First, contact the police.  Police can further investigate or pass the matter along to the appropriate law enforcement agency.   

  • Second, contact your bank.  It may be able to reverse or cancel a transaction.

  • If you clicked a link that directed you to a site that appeared to be your bank, email service, or social media account, for example, log in to the real site and change your password.

  • Report the phishing scheme to the company—whether it’s your email provider, your utility company, or your employer—that the phisher impersonated.

  • Call the credit bureaus to request a credit report and credit monitoring.

  • If you see signs that your identity has been stolen, report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC will guide you through the steps to take whether your information was stolen from your credit card account, utilities, checking and savings, or medical insurance.

  • Never select a numbered option when receiving an automated call, even if it is to speak to a live operator or to be removed from the call list. This serves to verify to the company that a number is a working number, and the calls will pick up in frequency.

  • Call a lawyer.