How to deal with phishing, smishing attacks

If it feels like more scammers and spammers are flooding your various inboxes, it’s probably because they are.

Fake text messages and phishing emails from virtual scammers have been on the rise since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. And one of the most common methods that scammers have used recently are fake messages that are supposedly from an Amazon representative, who could claim to be checking in on suspicious activity on your account or even a delayed package.

Usually, these phishing or “smishing” or SMS phishing attacks are designed to trick you into believing that you are communicating with a legitimate representative of the e-commerce giant. If you’re not careful, you can transfer valuable personal information from your credit card information to login credentials for your online accounts, or click on malware-ridden links that infect your devices with viruses.

The Federal Trade Commission reports that U.S. consumers collectively lost about $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021, a 70% increase from the previous year. About a third of that came from scammers scams.

So, what can you do to make sure you don’t get caught up in one of these increasingly common scams by spammers?

How to screen for scams

Do not click on links or share any personal information unless you are absolutely sure that you are speaking to a genuine Amazon representative or other legitimate company or organization.

The FTC notes that there are several tell-tale signs often associated with scammers, who “may use a variety of ever-changing stories to try and lure you in.” Among which:

  • Promising you won a free prize
  • Offering a form of credit at low interest
  • Alerting you to allegedly suspicious account activity
  • Say there is a problem with your payment information
  • Sending you a false invoice

Amazon itself offers an online guide to help its customers identify suspicious messages masquerading as official Amazon communications. 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 suspicious of a message asking for updated payment information, you should go to the “Your Orders” page of your Amazon online account. “If you’re not prompted on that screen to update your payment method, the message isn’t from Amazon,” the company says.

Many scammers rely on “spoofing,” a practice that makes your phone’s caller ID think you’re getting a text or phone call from someone you trust. In some cases, they even mimic your own number, making it seem like you’re calling or texting yourself.

So just to be extra careful, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends that you “never share your personal or financial information via email, text messages, or over the phone.”

Block and report spammers

If you are in any doubt about the legality of any text or email, the FTC recommends contacting the company or institution’s “verifiable customer service.” Visit the company’s website to find a valid contact number or email address, rather than respond to the message you received.

The easiest way to stop receiving suspicious messages is to block the phone numbers or email addresses that send you messages. You can also manage your phone’s filters to delete calls or texts from unknown numbers.

Unfortunately, some scammers use different numbers or addresses for every message they send, leaving you playing a game of virtual Whack-a-Mole, constantly blocking suspicious numbers and emails while the scammers browse through new ones.

At that point, consider reporting the spam and phishing attempts to your wireless carrier or email service, along with government agencies, including the FTC’s Online Fraud Complaint Form and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

If the suspected scammer claims to represent a specific company such as Amazon or a government agency, you can also try reporting the attempt to the actual organization. Amazon recommends visiting the company’s “Report Something Supicious” page in its customer service section, where you can report any text messages, emails, or phone calls you’ve received that you suspect are not from Amazon. .

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