Despite all the benefits that the internet brings to our lives every day, there is also a nefarious side that people need to be aware of and smart about—scamming. Unfortunately, like with just about every other technology, fraudsters persist, always concocting new ways to acquire personal information or access unsuspecting victims’ bank accounts or credit cards.
Seniors are particularly vulnerable to the latest scams, especially because they have spent far less of their lives engaging with the internet than Millennials or Gen Z! And given the kinds of scams out there, seniors are more likely to click on links that seem innocent but that are anything but.
At Trailblazer Broadband, we take your online safety and security extremely seriously. But our technicians and online security experts can’t do it all. Nor can they watch out for scams that might hit your email account, social media feed, texts or web browser. You need to be vigilant as well.
Below we discuss ten signs that you are about to be scammed. As you will see, some of these signs are more obvious, while others can be cleverly sneaky about persuading you to “just click right now.” With even a little knowledge and some extra caution, you can avoid most scams, while enjoying Trailblazer Broadband’s fast and reliable fiber internet with greater confidence.
What is Phishing?
Before highlighting the most common signs that you’re about to be scammed, let’s briefly discuss the most common schemes plaguing internet users today, especially seniors: phishing. Phishing attempts to “lure” a victim into providing something to a scammer: personal sensitive information like full name, address, or telephone number, or an official identifier like a Social Security Number, or bank account or credit card information, or direct access to a computer or other device.
They come in many forms and some scammers can be quite ingenious about their phishing methods. But there’s almost always something “off” about phishing attempts and scams. Let’s now move on to the top ten signs to be aware of to prevent phishing attacks and other scams.
- Emails Arrive in Your Inbox at Strange Times
Many email scams originate from outside the United States in different time zones, some between six and twelve time zones away. Receiving emails in the middle of the night is a first sign that something is amiss. Further, if a hacker has taken over the email account of someone you know and sends you an email at an unusual hour (for them), that’s another indication to be suspicious—and extra careful.
- Email Address Irregularities
While scammers can easily disguise themselves in the Subject Lines of emails, it’s much more difficult to establish an email address that fits the company, government agency or other entity they are pretending to be. Look for addresses that employ @yahoo.com, @gmail.com, or similar services. No legitimate major company or agency would use such addresses to conduct business.
- Grammar and Spelling Mistakes
Scammers are notoriously bad spellers. And their command of the English language is frequently lacking. Astute and vigilant email users should note that misspelled words or blatant grammatical errors are a common sign of a phishing attack and should be ignored.
- Fishy Attachments and Files
Beware of messages with odd or intentionally vague attachments. Attachments marked “Invoice “or “Shipping Notification” are particularly common—especially if you are not expecting either from a vendor. And the type of file employed in the message is another signal, too, including zip and Microsoft Word document files. Some email programs or services automatically scan such files for viruses, but if you’re at all suspicious, just ignore the message entirely and not let your curiosity get the better of you.
- Urgent Demands
Another common trick many scammers use to get your attention is to demand action from you, often with an overwhelming sense of urgency. “Time is short!” “Respond immediately!” “Your reward expires in one hour!” These are just examples of demands designed to pique your interest and get you clicking. Don’t fall for them!
- Requests for Your Personal and/or Financial Information
Any email from any source whatsoever requesting that you enter your personal or financial information should be ignored immediately. Indeed, most companies state outright that they will never ask you to enter such information through an email correspondence. Such a request is one of the biggest indicators of a phishing scam.
- If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is
Phishing scammers have taken a play out of junk mail schemes dating back decades, promising rewards and riches if you act now. From dangling Amazon gift cards or cash prizes, these fraudsters know how to grab your eyes with such false promises—and hope to snag your bank account information through them.
- Phony Delivery Notifications
Increasingly common in text messages sent to your smartphone, fake delivery notifications are another scam. The first sign that something is “off” is if you weren’t expecting a delivery in the first place. Even if you are, proceed with caution. For example, before clicking on such a message, try to remember how the online vendors you usually use (e.g., Amazon) typically contact you. It probably isn’t through this type of text message!
- Surveys About Major Topics of the Day
Watch out for emails asking you to respond to surveys unless you know the source. Common topical surveys relate to COVID-19 vaccines and other public health matters. Again, scammers are trying to get your attention to get you to click. Don’t fall for it over the hot topic of the times!
- Strange Greetings and/or Tone in Emails
Our last indicator of a scam is less straightforward—especially if some scammers have avoided some of the more common examples above. Watch for overly generic greetings like “Dear Friend.” Or if they use your email address instead of your actual name in the greeting! Also consider if the tone of the email is “off.” If it comes from a familiar email address but doesn’t sound like the person you know, don’t respond. Or perhaps the email is geared toward subjects or purchases that are irrelevant to you. When in doubt, trust your gut.
We hope this guide will help you fish out phishing and other scams, and make you feel more confident when utilizing the internet. And for more valuable tips and advice about staying safe online, follow us on Facebook and visit us online at TrailblazerBroadband.com.