Maybe you’re booking your awesome Labor Day vacation. Or you finally got a reply to an email you’ve been waiting for, with package tracking information for a gadget you ordered online. You’re cool to send payment to your Airbnb host, or to follow the link in the “shipping info” email... right?
Well, not so fast. Some scams that have cropped up recently actually mean that if you’re not 100% sure you’re actually booking with a legitimate Airbnb host — or responding to a trustworthy email or text — you could be putting your identity and your computer security at risk. Fraudster tricks like fake student loan relief offers or fake tech support scams have been a problem for awhile, but summer is an extra busy time for scammers, with consumer complaints about new tricks on the rise.
That means it’s especially vital for you to be really careful right now — and part of that is knowing of the newest traps that scam artists are setting to get you to give up personal information, cash or worse.
To help you out, here are five of the newest scams that you’ll want to be sure to avoid in 2017 — ranked from kinda sneaky to downright dastardly.
5. That information you wanted is here...
You get an email: The subject line says: “Re: Re: Shipping Info,” or something similar that makes it appear as if it’s a response to a question you asked. It comes from a brand you trust or a contact you know, so you open the email — you’re busy and the message looks legit.
That’s what thousands of business users thought when they opened emails that looked like authentic replies to requests for information, as Small Biz Trends recently reported. Only problem? Thousands of these emails — sent out over seven hours on July 6 — actually led you to a site that transferred malware when you clicked on the link in your email.
Phishing scams like this one are common because they work: Busy people who think they’re getting replies to their own requests often click on links without a second thought, and then pay the price. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, you’ll either need to avoid clicking links in emails or ensure you’re using a good anti-virus and anti-malware program.
4. A jury duty call — that isn’t
You’ve got a call coming in and your caller ID says its local law enforcement. That’s weird and worrisome, so of course you pick up the phone.
The ominous voice on the other end of the line: You’ve missed jury duty and now you’ve got a big legal problem on your hands: You’re going to have to pay a fine over the phone right away for failing to do your civic duty or you’re going to have to schedule an affidavit to resolve the issue and you’ll need to pay to set up the meeting. Otherwise, you’re going to be carted off to jail.
That sounds really really bad and you’re actually not looking to make your own reality TV version of Orange is the New Black, so your only question now is how to pay your fine. The problem is, you just fell victim to a scam about which sheriffs’ departments in states including Virginia have begun issuing warnings.
Phone scams are common and the jury duty scam is a popular new way that fraudsters are trying to take your cash. You should be suspicious of any phone calls from someone claiming to be a government agent, especially if they’re asking for money over the phone which the government won’t ever do. Don’t assume you can trust caller ID, as it is possible for scammers to trick you by making it appear their calls are coming from legitimate sources.
3. You’ve been “smished”!
Your phone pings, but sadly it’s not a message from your hot Tinder date from last night. Double bummer: It’s your bank letting you know that your account has a problem — and you’ll have to confirm your information right away. Or, even scarier, it’s the IRS saying you messed up your taxes and have to submit additional forms to avoid prosecution. You click the link because it seems to have come from a trusted sender.
Alas, you’ve now become the victim of “smishing.” Yes, that’s a word and it refers to phishing attempts sent over texts (using the SMS system), instead of attempts via email. While smishing scams have been on the rise for a while, scammers are turning to text-message scams with even greater frequency, as people learn to ignore calls and emails.
These texting scams may ask you to click on a link or to provide your account information: “Confirm your password here” or “Click on this Link to See What You’ve Won.” The information you provide can then be used to steal your identity. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, avoid providing any information based on a text, and don’t click on links sent to you via text until you’ve confirmed elsewhere that they’re legitimate.
2. You trust your Facebook friends — right?
Sally from your hometown friends you on Facebook — and soon tells you about a cool government grant she got to go back to school. You should check it out! Unfortunately, scammers are increasingly capitalizing on the trust between friends by hacking into Facebook accounts and convincing friends and family members of real account owners to send in money to get grants.
Once the hackers access a Facebook account, they typically lock the true owner out and then start talking to friends about how they received grants through agents after paying just a small upfront fee. It’s easier to fall for these scams if you believe your friend is vouching for them, as CBS News explained.
The lesson? Don’t send any money to anyone based on a Facebook message or post. If you believe your friend really does need cash or is alerting you to a legitimate issue, use contact information you have from outside of the social network to reach out and find the truth.
1. You’ve snagged a dreamy Airbnb
You’ve found it: the perfect cozy cabin for a romantic weekend getaway. Airbnb was easy to use, the deal is great, and you’re talking to the property owner now... But, sadly, he says he just rented the property.
Before you get too discouraged, though, he’s got another one just down the street and he’s going to send you an email link so you can check it out.
Here’s the problem: When you get the email, the link takes you to a website that looks like Airbnb but isn’t, as CBS News recently reported. One victim of the scam ended up going to a website that ended with .info instead of .com, hard to notice since the site was otherwise identical to Airbnb.
To make sure you don’t get tricked, avoid going outside of Airbnb’s system at all. Stick to links you can access after typing in the website’s legitimate address into your browser. And, if you’re asked to send money outside of Airbnb’s system, immediately cut off all contact — because this isn’t allowed under the site’s terms of service, so you have no protection if you wire scammers money.
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