Image: example of Wonga scam text messages
Many of us are aware of major phishing scams carried out by professional fraudsters that have temporarily taken down big companies. The thought that such a big, professional and reputable company could fall target to such a scam seems difficult to comprehend for many of us – how could such a seemingly secure and savvy business suffer such a breach? But it has happened to some of the biggest names in the business.
Indeed, scammers are becoming more intelligent about how they access data and what they do with it. They know that by imitating a company with material and communication which looks professional and reputable, they can gain trust of customers who in turn trust the company. They can even get people to pay fees and send their money to them.
Here are just some examples of phishing scams in 2015:
It has recently been reported that North Korea were behind the hack that left Sony so vulnerable. It was devastating for Sony when hackers coded into a strain of malware known as Wiper, which crippled the company’s networks. The hackers posted links to stolen documents, which included financial records and the keys to Sony’s servers.
Wonga, the most recognisable of the payday loan companies, were recently victims of fraudsters who managed to get hold of customer details, send out emails and text messages to all of these people (see image) and dupe many into paying an upfront fee to a fake loan product. Wonga reacted quickly, setting up a fraud hotline and providing advice to their customers.
The very recent TalkTalk breach left consumer data vulnerable, and the current advice from the company is to be vigilant against any suspicious activity. This includes emails which contain links to a fake version of TalkTalk’s website, with a login page which looks similar to the real one. They advise that customers should be careful with the links that they click on, and be sure that the web URL address is talktalk.co.uk.
Other tips for identifying phishing emails
A phishing email may contain poor spelling and grammar, as the fraudulent person or team behind the email could well be from a different country where English is a second language.
Recently, there have been a lot of emails going round suggesting that you are due to inherit a small fortune, or that you have won the lottery. How can you tell these are fake? Well, be clever and think carefully. Did you even enter a prize draw? If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
One final tip would be to contact the company directly, asking if a certain message is from them, before you act on it. Make sure you contact the proper number and if you’re absolutely sure it’s a fake, report it to their fraud team (many large companies will have a fraud team set up for this very reason.) They can then deal with your case and track down whoever it is sending out fake emails.