How to Recognize Phishing
Scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information. They may try to steal your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. If they get that information, they could gain access to your email, credit union, or other accounts. Scammers launch thousands of phishing attacks like these every day — and they’re often successful. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that people lost $57 million to phishing schemes in one year.
Scammers often update their tactics, but there are some signs that will help you recognize a phishing email or text message. Phishing emails and text messages may look like they’re from a company you know or trust. They may look like they’re from a bank, a credit card company, a social networking site, an online payment website or app, or an online store. Phishing emails and text messages often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. They may
- say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts
- claim there’s a problem with your account or your payment information
- say you must confirm some personal information
- include a fake invoice
- want you to click on a link to make a payment
- say you’re eligible to register for a government refund
- offer a coupon for free stuff
Spam Text Messages and Phishing
If you have a cell phone, you probably use it dozens of times a day to text people you know. But have you ever gotten a text message from an unknown sender? It could be a scammer trying to steal your personal information.
Scammers send fake text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information – things like your password, account number, or Social Security number. If they get that information, they could gain access to your email, credit union, or other accounts. Or they could sell your information to other scammers.
The scammers use a variety of ever-changing stories to try to rope you in. They may
- promise free prizes, gift cards or coupons
- offer you a low or no interest credit card
- promise to help you pay off your student loans
Scammers also send fake messages that say they have some information about your account or a transaction. The scammers may
- say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity on your account
- claim there’s a problem with your payment information
- send you a fake invoice and tell you to contact them if you didn’t authorize the purchase
- send you a fake package delivery notification
The messages might ask you to give some personal information — like how much money you make, how much you owe, or your credit union account, credit card, or Social Security number — to claim your gift or pursue the offer. Or they may tell you to click on a link to learn more about the issue. Some links may take you to a spoofed website that looks real but isn’t. If you log in, the scammers can then steal your user name and password.
Other messages may install harmful malware on your phone that steals your personal information without you realizing it.
What to do about Spam Text Messages
If you get a text message that you weren’t expecting and it asks you to give some personal information, don’t click on any links. Legitimate companies won’t ask for information about your account by text.
If you think the message might be real, contact the company using a phone number or website you know is real. Not the information in the text message.
There are many ways you can filter unwanted text messages or stop them before they reach you.