Suspicious-Looking Emails, Malware, Even Classified Ad Scams… Online Schemes Are on the Rise!
According to a new report from the Better Business Bureau, the number of online scams spiked during the pandemic in 2020, due to more people online shopping. Other reports say that the Federal Trade Commission has received nearly 50,000 complaints since the pandemic started. With this in mind, we wanted to give you some tips to better your cybersecurity.
You’ve all probably gotten spam email, whether it’s supposedly from a friend or close business associate begging for help, or from the proverbial “Nigerian Prince” who is promising you millions of dollars if you’ll forward him your banking numbers. But as spam becomes more and more sophisticated, it can be harder to spot, making cybersecurity a real concern for chiropractic practices across the state.
Some of our members have reported receiving emails from a doctor in KAC leadership, asking for help. One variation a few years ago had our then-President stuck in Puerto Rico with no money and no way out – except with help from the recipient. One common scam asks the email recipient to send $25 iTunes gift cards, or $50 pre-paid Visa cards.
And, these scam emails aren’t just annoying – they can be downright dangerous, as the sender tries to bypass your firewall and gain a foothold inside your practice by infecting a computer with spyware, ransomware, or other scheme that puts your security at risk, and in violation of HIPAA.
Spotting Potential Spam Emails
- Phishing emails and text messages often look like they’re from a person or organization you know and trust, but the email is not from their usual address.
- If the sender’s address has a bunch of numbers or a domain you don’t recognize (the part after the “@”), it’s probably spam.
- The language or grammar are “off” and full of spelling errors.
- The formatting or design are different from the usual emails received from that person/organization.
- The email tells an unbelievable story (like the aforementioned Puerto Rico story).
- They ask for financial or other personal information, or for you to sign in to “update your account.”
If you get one of these emails, never click on a link or load an image, as they are most likely a malicious link. Likewise, never open an attachment from a suspicious email, or hit reply. Delete the email as quickly as possible. You also may want to report the email as spam prior to deletion. If you’re not sure if it’s legit, contact the sender through another means (DO NOT hit “reply”).
If you receive a “phishy” email from the KAC or one of our doctors, be sure to follow the tips above. Nothing can infect your computer if you don’t click any links or respond.
Classified Ad Scams
If you’re running a classified ad, whether on the KAC website or your local paper, watch out for potential scam artists. The KAC office recently received word from someone running an ad through the KAC that they had someone call regarding their equipment for sale. They even sent a cashier’s check, but it was for $3,000 more than the asking price! They then asked the seller to return the overage with money orders, but the seller could keep a portion for the inconvenience.
This type of scam is unfortunately not that uncommon. Luckily, it raised some red flags with our seller, and they still have their equipment, and no funds were sent out. Here are some tips to avoid this kind of scam:
- Never accept a check for more than you are asking or for more than the item you are selling is worth.
- Cashier’s checks ARE NOT the same as cash. They are easy to counterfeit because every bank uses a unique design, ironically so that their checks cannot be easily counterfeited. But this means there is so much variation that it’s impossible to know every bank’s design.
- Verify the check for legitimacy by calling or visiting the back it is drawn from before cashing or depositing. If calling, do not use the number on the check, as it could be a set-up; instead, search of the financial institution’s number online.
- If you do try to cash a fraudulent cashier’s checks, you are responsible for the money you withdraw.
Here are some other useful tips to identify potential classified ad schemes:
- Avoid phishing situations. Do not provide more information than necessary. Be aware of what contact information you provide and what information people could obtain. Any unnecessary asks for personal information could put you at risk for identity theft.
- Avoid payment systems when links are sent to you in an email. Using the internet payment service through their actual website helps protect you from fraudulent claims.
- Try not to rush any transactions, especially if the buyer or seller wish to change the terms of the sale.
- It is generally better to avoid wiring funds to an unknown party. Wire transfers cannot be cancelled at any time, unlike checks. Once the money is collected, it is gone.
- For more information on protecting yourself from classified ad scams, click here.
When it comes to online security, it is better to be safe than sorry. Having your general rule when online be “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is” is a good start, but vigilance is the key.