Anyone who tries to defraud you online – or even on the telephone – is literally banking your carelessness. Take a good look at emails and links and listen carefully on the phone. You can spot the fraud, and if you’re not sure, disengage and call the person you think contacted you – on the telephone – or send a new email, totally separate from the thread.
It’s important to be on “high alert” because the hackers and scammers are at the top of their game, and their targets include trusted advisors, such as accountants and tax preparers. We should state that these people should have secure systems in place and should know not to send or request sensitive, confidential information through email.
But at the end of the day, you need to take ownership of your privacy, so here are some tipoffs that a communication might not secure or might be out-and-out fraudulent.
First, does your accountant normally contact you by email? If not, that ought to raise a red flag. Second, can you absolutely verify that the email is from your accountant? While some email systems are good at spotting something fishy (or phishy), a scammer is betting that you’re not going to pay attention. Check the properties of an email address. It could very well be that cybercriminals were able to recreate the look and feel of an email from your accountant, but unless they actually got into the accountant’s server, a phony email will have a phony email address.
Attachments can be another tipoff to fraud. You should be suspicious if you get an email with attachments that are supposed to be forms, such as a tax form you need to fill out or a return to verify, are you being asked to provide your Social Security number and maybe your birthday? Can you open it without having to go to a secure website and enter a password? That doesn’t pass our initial smell test.
If your accountant does contact you about sensitive information or forms, are you referred to a secure website? Do you have that link with your access credentials safely stored? In a safe world, you can log into your account by entering the website address from your browser and entering your credentials.
If something doesn’t look right, you should always be able to call your accountant on the telephone.
And just to go one step farther this spring, here are some other things to be wary of.
Are you getting emails supposedly from someone you haven’t heard from in ages? And does have a short subject line, such as “hi”, with no message but a link? That’s a sign of fraud and clicking the link could open a breach in your system that can expose your sensitive data.
Are you getting Facebook friend requests from people who are already your friends? That’s generally a fraudulent request by someone looking to get into your system.
Anyone using fraudulent methods to get into your computer system may also be planting some kind of virus or malware to help infect other computers. If you think you may have clicked a link by mistake that could lead to a breach of your system, shut down your computer and disconnect it from the internet. Then call us – 973-433-6676 – so that we can apply our tools and expertise to minimize the damage and clean up your system.