Be aware of e-mail scams
I opened my e-mail the other day and thought I’d received an alert from PayPal, the online company that enables anyone with an e-mail address to send and receive payments online in a secure and timely manner. More than 133 million people now have active accounts with PayPal.
However, I am not one of them. So when the e-mail, complete with an official-looking PayPal logo, informed me that someone had been trying to access my account, I was suspicious.
The e-mail went on to state that in order to ensure that my information was kept private and secure, all I had to do was click on the link provided. I would then be asked to resubmit my information and my account would remain safe.
Instead of immediately deleting the message, as I usually do with unsolicited advertisements and such, I logged on to the official PayPal Web site (www.paypal.com) and entered their “Security Center.” Lo and behold, right on the opening page, they had a link for fraudulent e-mail. Obviously, these e-mail issues are nothing new.
The actual PayPal site requested that I forward the suspicious e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, which I did. Within a very short time I received a response from them verifying that yes indeed, this was a “phishing” e-mail designed to coerce me into giving out my personal account information. By forwarding the e-mail to the appropriate place, they could now use it in the fight against fraudulent e-mail.
“Phishing” is a type of fraud that sets out to steal your identity. It is also a term used to describe fake e-mails that are designed to get you to disclose sensitive information such as account numbers and passwords or social security numbers. Almost always, these e-mails are designed to look like they are from a well-known company’s Web site.
According to the security center on the official PayPal Web site, there are a number of ways to spot a fraudulent e-mail, including:
— Generic greetings – If the greeting on the e-mail is “Dear user,” there’s a good chance that it is not from a valid source.
— Sender’s e-mail address – This may appear official, but could actually just be copied from a valid Web site. The sender’s address does not assure authenticity of the e-mail itself.
— Sense of urgency – If the e-mail states that you only have a certain amount of time to access your account or it will be compromised, that’s another indication of fraud.
— Attachments – Never click on an attachment from an unknown source, as you may inadvertently download a virus or spyware onto your computer.
Additionally, there are certain things that reputable companies will not ask for in an e-mail, including numbers from your bank accounts or driver’s license, passwords, or credit card information. Don’t ever click onto links provided in suspicious e-mails as they could be directing you right to an online scammer’s site.
Another way to stay safe online is to look for a Web address or URL that begins with “https.” The “s” stands for secure, and it should come before any address where you are entering sensitive personal information.
For more tips on how to spot fake e-mails and stay safe online, log onto http://www.paypal.com and click on “Security Center.” Be alert and aware.
— Amy Roby can be reached by e-mail at RanchosRoundup@hotmail.com