Clicking links on Twitter can be hazardous. Fake links can lead to malware or sites designed to steal your password. Additionally, cybersquatters posing as your credit union or bank may attempt to get you to reveal personal identifying information. Keep your guard up; there are some real dangers hidden among all that pointless babble.
I spend a lot of time on this site repeating (explicitly or implicitly) these two ideas:
- You can take steps to vastly reduce your chances of becoming a victim of fraud or identity theft
- That said, nobody is ever 100% safe, and nobody is “too smart” to walk right into a scam
The following is an excerpt from a recent speech by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III:
Most of us assume we will not be targets of cyber crime. We are not as careful as we know we should be. Let me give you an example.
Not long ago, the head one of our nation’s domestic agencies received an e-mail purporting to be from his bank. It looked perfectly legitimate, and asked him to verify some information. He started to follow the instructions, but then realized this might not be such a good idea.
It turned out that he was just a few clicks away from falling into a classic Internet “phishing” scam—“phishing” with a “P-H.” This is someone who spends a good deal of his professional life warning others about the perils of cyber crime. Yet he barely caught himself in time.
He definitely should have known better. I can say this with certainty, because it was me.
After changing all our passwords, I tried to pass the incident off to my wife as a “teachable moment.” To which she replied: “It is not my teachable moment. However, it is our money. No more Internet banking for you!”
If I didn’t dislike vapid clichés like “it really makes you think” so much, I’d probably say that right now. I mean, it would be funny (but not ha-ha funny) enough if someone like myself fell for a phishing email, but the FBI Director?
I think the Soup Nazi-esque “no online banking for you!” response is extreme, although I can see how a high-profile figure like Mueller could have his reasons beyond just his own personal finances for going offline—namely, his very credibility.
For the rest of us, though, online banking and bill payment is still very safe, as long as you’re informed when it comes to the dangers. If you get an email that appears to be from a financial institution, don’t click on any links within that message. Go directly to that bank, credit union or credit card company’s website by typing the URL manually, or by running a search on Google, and log in from there. Of course, if it’s from an institution you don’t even have a relationship with, you’re pretty safe in assuming it’s phony.
The full text of Mueller’s speech is an interesting read, if you have a few minutes, by the way.
Emails and text messages that claim to come from Allegius Credit Union are rampant in Northwest Indiana right now. In fact, several REGIONAL employees have received these over the past two weeks.
Of course, not everyone who gets one of these messages is a member of Allegius, in which case it’s easy to see through the phishing attempt, like a few years ago when I received a phishing message that claimed to be from a credit union in Hawaii. However, Allegius does have a lot of members, and that’s what the criminals are counting on.
For example, let’s say they sent 100,000 emails, and 5,000 of those people are members. If only 1% of those people fall for it, they’ve got 50 account numbers, PINs, and probably some other information as well. That’s more than enough to do some serious damage and drain a lot of money from victim’s accounts.
I’m pasting the text of these email messages below. I don’t have an example of the text message version of this scam, but it essentially said the same thing: “your account has been suspended, please go to this site and log in.”
Your financial institution will never contact you in this way regarding account security. If you receive such messages, delete them immediately. Never click a link inside an email message of this nature, as it will take you to a website designed to appear legitimate, but set up for the sole purpose of stealing your information.
Subject: You have 1 new ALERT message
You have 1 new ALERT message
Please login into your Allegius Credit Union
To Login, please click the link below:
Copyright © 1998-2009 Allegius Credit Union All Rights Reserved.
Subject: Important Security Information
Your It’s Me 247 Online Banking account has been locked temporarily due to many unsuccessful login attempts.
You are kindly advised to Login to It’s Me 247 Online Banking and follow the instructions on your screen.
The data submitted will be transmitted over an SSL encrypted connection (128 bit Secure Socket Layer).
The line about SSL encryption in the second message is a cute touch. Yet another attempt to make the message seem realistic. You might also think the phrase “You are kindly advised” seems a little off. It doesn’t seem like a phrase a financial institution would use, does it? It has a weird, “translated” aroma to it. Since a lot of these scams originate overseas, that’s probably not far from the truth.