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Don’t take the bait on phishing scams this summer

Emily Valla, Idaho Better Business Bureau
Emily Valla, Idaho Better Business Bureau

Can you believe it’s June? Although the weather already feels like it, the calendar will soon officially tell us summer has begun. The time of the year filled with sun-soaked activities like fishing, camping and hiking makes it no surprise that June is recognized as “National Great Outdoors Month.” That’s right, 30 days dedicated to getting out of the house and into Mother Nature. You don’t have to ask me twice. But before you get out the fishing poles and head out to the nearest body of water, take the time to learn about a different kind of phishing that isn’t so fun.

Phishing is the fraudulent act of imitating legitimate organizations via email, text messaging or phone calls, to get personal information, passwords and credit card numbers. And it happens all the time. BBB’s Scam Tracker has 163 reports of phishing scams in Idaho since June of last year, with the most significant incident resulting in a local woman losing $600. Keep in mind, these numbers are just scams categorized specifically as “phishing,” but these tactics show up in some other common cons.

Here’s what to look for:

1. Phishing messages typically either offer a reward (a gift card or free item), threaten a punishment (deactivate account or reports to authorities), or appear completely mundane (a file from an office scanner).

2. In the communication, the scammer urges the target to download malware, click a link or share information. In the case of an email or text, the link frequently leads to a form, which prompts the target to enter personal information.

3. Be cautious of generic emails. Scammers try to cast a wide net by including little or no specific information in their fake emails. Always be wary of messages that don’t contain your name or other personalizing information. Keep in mind it’s not difficult for scammers to copy and paste logos to make emails look legitimate.

Don’t take the bait. If you think you have received a phishing email, just delete it. Don’t respond or click anything. If you are questioning the legitimacy of the email, contact the company directly. Do not use the contact information contained in the suspicious email.

Be careful before you click. Hover over a link to see where it leads. Before entering personal information or passwords on any website, double-check you have the correct URL and watch for minor misspellings.

Protect your personal information, so the only phishing stories you’ll have to tell this summer are about that trout you swear was at least as long as your arm.

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call (208) 342-4649.

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