With an increasingly digitalized world comes an unfortunate increase in scams and cyber theft. We have recently become aware of several cyber security issues facing our clients that we would like to bring to your attention. Below are several common cyber and technology scams we urge you and your families of which to be mindful.
Phishing attacks are becoming more sophisticated. Given that email is a primary source of communication for many of us, cyber attackers are using fraudulent emails to obtain personal information. A common method of “phishing” is in the form of a fake email that looks very much like it came from a known entity (friend, family member, company, etc.). The email may have logos and familiar language, but will come from a different (or hacked) email address. The goal of these emails is to re-direct you to a fraudulent webpage where the hacker can then obtain personal information.
In order to protect yourself, it may be best to not open suspicious or unfamiliar emails. If you do open an email and are unsure about a link, consider opening the institution’s website separately (in a separate web browser) rather than clicking on a potentially malicious link. If you question the email’s legitimacy, call the institution directly to verify its authenticity.
For more information on phishing, we encourage you to read our blog post, “Beware of Phishing.”
Identity thieves are getting trickier. Text messaging has quickly become a new avenue for identity thieves to obtain information. A common scam is a text message coming from a seemingly familiar institution, instructing you to call a number to update your account or personal information. Once you call the fake number, you may be prompted to give personal information such as your social security number or date of birth. We encourage you to verify the authenticity of the phone number first. Most legitimate companies send texts for informational purposes (payment received, statement available, upcoming bill, etc.) and will rarely use text messaging as a means of requesting a phone call.
IRS scams are becoming very common. One of the most common and dangerous scams is done by imposters pretending to be IRS agents. The fraudulent person will call and claim to be an IRS agent, asking you for personal information and may demand payment for taxes, often threatening penalties if you do not give them immediate payment. It is important to note that the IRS will never ask for payment or accept credit card information over the phone. It is also important to keep in mind that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers via email, text, or social media channels. The IRS will typically send a letter first, before ever calling you.
If you receive any suspicious communications from someone claiming to be the associated with the IRS, we urge you to contact the IRS fraud line (800-366-4484) to report the incident.
Election scams are growing as we approach November 8th. You may have noticed an increase in calls from campaigns asking for donations and support. Scammers are claiming to be staffers for a certain campaign and may call and ask you for personal information. If they do ask for any detailed personal information, your guard should come up. We encourage you to verify the source of the call and contact your local voting center if you have questions about the legitimacy of the source.
Once again, our goal is to help you protect yourself from cyber scams and identify theft. At Dowling & Yahnke, we take proactive steps to ensure that your personal information is secure and protected. If you have any questions about the security of your accounts or the safety of your confidential information, please do not hesitate to give us a call.