Q: A friend of mine was recently “hacked” when she clicked on a link in an email that looked perfectly legitimate. Now I’m afraid to even read my emails. Do you have any suggestions to make sure I’m not the next fraud victim?
A: I’m sorry to hear about your friend. Unfortunately, she is certainly not the only one to fall victim to this type of attack. Here are some tips to help you spot the most common phishing scams and take the necessary steps to avoid trouble.
Catching a Phish
If you spend any time online, you’ve probably been the target of a phishing attack. This is when a scammer pretends to be from a reputable company to get you to reveal personal information they can use for their own gain. They do this through a number of communication mediums, including emails, website pop-ups, text messages and even mobile apps.
Common Email Phishing Scams
Email phishing scams take on the appearance of a legitimate email. They may even appear to be from a company you’re familiar with (such as Amazon, Costco or Netflix), to take advantage of your trust and gain personal or financial information. Here are some common email scams:
Foreign lottery. Congratulations! You just won a big prize! Unfortunately, it’s often in a foreign country, and you must pay a small amount upfront to receive the larger reward.
Survey says. You get a request to take a survey for a social issue you may care about. When you click the link, you get infected with malware.
Bank on it. You receive an email saying there is something wrong with your bank, Netflix or PayPal account “that needs your attention.” You’re then directed to a fake site where you are instructed to login so they can steal your user name and password for the actual site.
Common Phone Scams
Phone scams come in many forms. Some seem friendly, while others try and use intimidation. Either way, the goal is to get your personal information and money. Here are some common phone scams:
Fix your credit. Give them some money and they promise to “fix” or “remove” your debt.
Please give now. You need to give money today to help these people in need.
Extended car warranties. Almost everyone with a cell phone has had one of these robocalls. The scammers access public purchase records to try and sell you overpriced or worthless car warranties.
How To Recognize Scams
If you think you’ve received a suspicious communication, here are some questions to ask yourself and defeat the scam before it even gets started:
Does it pass the eye test? Phishing emails often contain a number of spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. In addition, the email may contain an embedded logo of a well-known company (to try to make it look “official”) that looks a bit fuzzy or blurry. If you read through it and spot any of these things, it’s a pretty good bet that it’s a scam email.
Is this asking for too much information? Be on the alert if anyone seems to be asking for sensitive information, like your Social Security or bank account number, even if you are talking to a company or bank you do business with.
Do I know you? Ask this simple question before responding to a message. First check to see if you recognize the sender’s name and email address. If you don’t do business or haven’t requested information from a particular company, don’t click on any links or take any surveys.
Do you know me? Avoid communications that lack personalization. “Dear valued customer” is your clue to ignore it.
Is this a legitimate link? Before clicking on a link, hover over it with your mouse to see if the URL address looks legitimate.
Am I on the web page I think I’m on? Before logging into an online account, make sure the web address is correct. Phishers often counterfeit legitimate websites, hoping to trick you into entering your login details.
Is it too good to be true? Avoid “free” offers or deals that sound too good to be true.
Is my security software active? Always use comprehensive security software to protect your devices and information from malware and other threats that might result from a phishing scam.
Jeremy R. Gussick is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional affiliated with LPL Financial, the nation’s largest independent broker-dealer.* Jeremy specializes in the financial planning and retirement income needs of the LGBTQ+ community and was recently named a
2020 FIVE STAR Wealth Manager as mentioned in Philadelphia Magazine.** He is active with several LGBTQ+ organizations in the Philadelphia region, including DVLF (Delaware Valley Legacy Fund) and the Independence Business Alliance (IBA), the Philadelphia Region’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce. OutMoney appears monthly. If you have a question for Jeremy, you can contact him via email at [email protected]
Jeremy R. Gussick is a Registered Representative with, and securities and advisory services are offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC.
This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal or investment advice. If you are seeking investment advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material. Kmotion, Inc., 412 Beavercreek Road, Suite 611, Oregon City, OR 97045; www.kmotion.com ©2021 Kmotion, Inc.
This article was created with the assistance of Kmotion, Inc. The articles and opinions in this newsletter are those of Kmotion. The articles and opinions are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Nothing in this publication shall be construed as providing investment counseling or directing employees to participate in any investment program in any way. Please consult your financial advisor or other appropriate professional for further assistance with regard to your individual situation. To the extent you are receiving investment advice from a separately registered independent investment advisor, please note that LPL Financial LLC is not an affiliate of and makes no representation with respect to such entity.
*As reported by Financial Planning magazine, June 1996-2020, based on total revenues.
**Award based on 10 objective criteria associated with providing quality services to clients such as credentials, experience, and assets under management among other factors. Wealth managers do not pay a fee to be considered or placed on the final list of 2020 Five Star Wealth Managers.