Sunday, July 24, 2011

Phishing Emails, Online Scams, Etc.

It's almost impossible today to not have some of your personal and financial affairs on the computer. No matter how savvy we think we are, the 'bad guys' are one step ahead. I thought I knew the red flags. I read the articles telling you what to watch out for. And guess what? I fell for one the the Bank of America phishing emails.

I got an email from Bank of America telling me I had a 'member alert'. The email had the Bank of America logo, Bank of America copyright information, and a Bank of America email address. I've since gone back to that phishing email to verify that it was a Bank of America extension on the email address and it was. They gave me a link to go retrieve my alert. Now, in hindsight, I should have not used their link, I should have gone directly to the Bank of America site. In my defense, Bank of America has installed some new security software and at times the login is a bit different. Once I was on the site that I had linked to, I was asked some security information to validate who I was--which I stupidly filled in. I was to then receive a validation code which would let me proceed to my account. Surprise, surprise, that validation code never came. At this point, I had already realized my mistake and was on the phone to the fraud department at Bank of America.

I'm openly admitting my stupid blind trust of a real looking email. I'm somewhat horrified at how easy it was to do. If I fell for it, lots of other people fall for it too.

So, here's some of the lessons I learned:

1. Never use a link given in an email. If the email tells you that you need to do something, go to the company's website directly.

2. Never give a social security number, account number, password, debit card number or any other critical piece of information.

3. Stop and think before you act. Use your smarts (I apparently lost mine yesterday).

4. Take into account the type of firm you (supposedly) got the email from. Would a bank really ask you for certain pieces of information? As another example, there's an email that had been circulating from Apple that lead you to think you had a virus on your computer and wanted you to buy a defender piece of software. As you were going through the process of ordering this software and doing a virus scan, these loud beeps went off every time it supposedly found a virus. Thinking logically, Apple would never have this jarring, awful noise go off--that was when I realized it was a scam.

Hopefully for me, I caught my mistake in time. I had to close my Bank of America account and put an alert on our information with the Credit Reporting agencies. I hope that by telling you what happened to me, it'll save it from happening to you.

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