I have wonderful memories of great fishing adventures and the thrill of learning to dupe a fish into taking my artificial bait! So, I can understand why one of the newest forms of internet scams is called phishing. According to Wikipedia, “Phishing is the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details ... often for malicious reasons, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. The word is due to the similarity of using bait in an attempt to catch a victim.”
Crooks using this method to anonymously snare victims are becoming more persistent and crafty. Their attempts are subtle and relentless! In the course of each day in the life of a Realtor®, there are many attempts to garner information that will help these creeps piece enough of the puzzle together to scam people out of their hard earned cash. As I sorted through my emails today, there were 8 such attempts. For example, one of them simply said, “Mr. Palmer, I wish to buy a family home, can you help me?” This communication seems harmless enough on the face of it, but was a sly attempt to lure me into giving information. Some of the clues: 1) no telephone number. 2) Calling me Mr. (computer savvy folks rarely use titles) 3) Words like “family home” are not normal phraseology. If you are a real buyer and your method is like the example above, don’t expect a return email, instead be more descriptive of yourself and your circumstances and give enough contact information to show you are for real.
Realtors® are a favorite target of such phishers because they hold confidential information about people and transactions. If the phish bite, swindlers can pose as an impatient closing agent to trick buyers into sending money or steal from victims accounts.
Some tips to prevent phishing attacks; 1) learn to identify suspected phishing attempts. Many attempts look like your email provider or other vendors requesting updates to your private information. 2) verify the source of the information from incoming email. 3) Never go to your bank’s website by clicking links included in emails. 4) enter sensitive data in secure websites only. 5) enhance the security of your computer by providing strong passwords etc. 6) periodically check your accounts. Phishing attempts also use websites like eBay, Facebook, PayPal, etc. 7) don’t open unfamiliar emails or links. If you have the slightest doubt, do not risk it. Consistently reject emails that ask you to provide confidential data.