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Stop and think before you open that e-mail

Phishing: watch out for fraudulent e-mails

May is financial fraud month. Readers, you need to pay attention and understand how to protect yourself and your family from cybercrime attacks and losses. And it is not just affecting you, but consistent attacks on governments, infrastructures such as utilities, fuel, and internet, businesses and individuals, has increased exponentially.

If the $6 trillion estimated damages caused by cybercrime in 2021 were measured as a country, according to Cybercrime Magazine, it would be the world’s third-largest economy after the US and China.

“This represents the greatest transfer of economic wealth in history, risks the incentives for innovation and investment, is exponentially larger than the damage inflicted from natural disasters in a year, and will be more profitable than the global trade of all major illegal drugs combined,” the article adds.

In March 2022, Cybertalk.org states that “15 billion spam attacks happen every day, one in 99 e-mails is a phishing attack, with 30-40 per cent of these e-mails opened, while the number of phishing attacks has doubled in two years”.

Cybercrime has hit the US so hard that in 2018 a supervisory special agent with the FBI who investigates cyber intrusions told The Wall Street Journal that every American citizen should expect that all of their data (personally identifiable information) has been stolen and is on the dark web – a part of the deep web – which is intentionally hidden and used to conceal and promote heinous activities. Some estimates put the size of the deep web (which is not indexed or accessible by search engines) at as much as 5,000 times larger than the surface web and growing at a rate that defies quantification.

Cyber and identity crime including the most common attacks of phishing, account takeovers, phone, text and gift card demands, fake conveyance deeds, voice cloning, SMS requests, pseudo-tax authority lookalikes threatening actions, fake pornographic ransomware attacks, and many more devious ways criminal opportunists use relentless attacks to commit fraud with both human and digital bot driven programmes.

Technology has advantages and disadvantages.

Technology advantages

What a world we live in! Everything so easy.

We cannot live without that instant clicking!

No longer mentally isolated, we can chat digitally face-to-face, order up a meal online with door delivery, have our doctor diagnose over Zoom, move our money around without getting out of bed, choose our favourite music concerts instantly, why we almost never need to have contact with a real human being.

In 2008, the Pixar movie Wall-E portrayed humans as lounging with health shakes in hands, legs too short for walking, everything done for them by robots except piloting their space ship. They quite clearly envisioned a future where we didn’t do much for ourselves, including thinking.

Technology disadvantages

According to Information Age, people no longer need to think.

Even if the calculator is a good invention, people no longer make mental calculation and no longer work their memories (and I might add trust their instincts that something is not quite right.)

The decline of human capital implies an increase in unemployment. And you wonder why I harp on financial literacy constantly. In some areas, devices can replace the human mind.

Another predictive article that today with everyone struggling about the artificial Intelligence impact of ChatGPT and what it will mean for their business, jobs, and lifestyles, is very prescient.

Rules to protect against scammers

Stop! Think! Don’t click or open a file or text – investigate!

Three interesting e-mails:

Invoice phishing: there appears to be a problem with your order, please confirm your delivery, and click here. You think it is from Amazon or other company, but the URL (web address) looks sort of something like this XXXXXX@company11345.com. It may even have the company name in there somewhere, but it is not legitimate.

Stop, think! Don’t, don’t click on that e-mail. Go to your real company website, call them and check your account. This is a fake website and a phoney company.

Bank phishing: your bank, under its real logo or so you think, sends out your most recent statement or asks for response to an account problem; just click on link below. Gee, it seems correct, the bank logo is there.

Stop, think! Don’t, don’t click or open that attachment. Check the URL. Once again, it is a phoney website that looks almost like your real bank’s site. Call your bank at their verified business number.

There are myriad evolutions of this scam, but essentially, the thieves build a phoney website – that looks a major company or bank (yes, they are used extensively because of your element of trust). Then, they develop e-mails based upon the phoney website and out go the scam messages.

Easy thievery!

Photographs from friends phishing: in the latest innovation that happened to yours truly, I received an e-mail from friends.

He e-mailed: “I thought you’d like to see some old photographs taken when we all worked together at XXXXXX. Enclosed were a couple of zip files. Who could resist looking at a bunch of photographs from good friends?

First warning: Zip files can contain malware or Trojan horse computer disrupters.

Second warning: this guy never did that sort of stuff, his wife was the stay-in-contact person. Readers, not paying much attention, I almost opened the file!

And then, I realised it was not his e-mail – not even close!

The big question – how did the scammers know we had connections?

Think again about what personal information you put on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Reddit, WhatsApp, you name it.

And on and on it goes.

Much more on fraud methods to discuss on May 20, and May 27. Stay tuned.

Martha Harris Myron is a native Bermuda islander with US connections, author, YouTube creator, finance columnist to The Royal Gazette, and a retired qualified international financial planner contact: martha.myron@gmail.com

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Published May 06, 2023 at 7:20 am (Updated May 09, 2023 at 7:44 am)

Stop and think before you open that e-mail

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