This may be the holiday season and you may be planning a little vacation time with your family, but it is a guarantee that scam artists will not be taking time off. In fact, this time of year many thieves take advantage of the holiday spirit of giving by twisting your generosity to their advantage and stealing your personal information or money. Taking a moment to educate yourself on what to look for in spam emails and phishing could prevent the Grinch from spoiling your holiday.
Spoofing is when someone disguises an email address, sender name, phone number, or website URL to look like a legitimate email. This is easily done by changing one letter, symbol, or number to convince you that you are interacting with a trusted source. Once you are fooled that an email is legit, malicious software can be downloaded to your computer or you can be tricked into logging onto a website and disclosing sensitive information that can be used to the spoofer’s advantage.
Phishing schemes often use the spoofing techniques by making it seem like a legitimate business offer, but once you have taken the bait, the scam is designed to trick you into giving the criminals information. In a phishing scam you might receive an email asking you to verify or update your personal information by replying to the email or visiting a website.
Once you have clicked on a link, you are sent to a spoofed website that can look identical to the real thing – like your bank or credit card site. You are asked to enter your information like passwords, credit card numbers, banking PINs, etc. Both spoofing and phishing are key parts of business email compromise scams.
Phishing has also evolved into several variations with similar techniques. Vishing scams involve phone calls, voice mail, or VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) calls. Smishing scams approach you through SMS (text) messages. When malicious code is installed on your computer to redirect you to fake websites, it is called “pharming.” All of these use similar techniques and often include a sense of urgency to get you to respond before you have time to notice the irregularities that can give them away.
Since young students are spending a lot of their time online and families are receiving multiple emails from their teachers and schools, it is important to protect yourself and your family by talking about phishing and how to determine what is a legitimate email. KnowBe4, Inc. has some great information on phishing phrases to send up a red flag. Here are five common email subjects, they suggest that people be on the lookout for this holiday season:
- Help Local Families Impacted by COVID-19 This Holiday Season
- Michaels: Unlock 25% off at Michaels!
- Zoom: No Shave November Contest
- IT: System Update Over the Holiday
- HR: Holiday Pie Baking Contest!
If you would like more information about holiday phishing and how to report spoofing or phishing attempts, contact the Hempstead County Extension office at 870-777-5771 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow our Facebook page for more events and information related to agriculture and the family: Hempstead County Cooperative Extension Service.
Article By Alison Crane, FCS Agent, Garland County
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.