BBB Tip: Phishing Scams

Phishing scams can come in the form of prize offers, threatened punishments, or something completely mundane like a file from the office scanner. Be ware of any unsolicited or unexpected communications asking for personal information.

phishing graphic with fish hook on keyboard with credit cardAlways be wary of unexpected emails, calls, or text messages that ask for personal information. Many of these communications are from imposters masquerading as trustworthy businesses and organizations. They are “phishing” for your Social Security or Social Insurance number, passwords, credit card information, or other personal details for use in identity theft. Don’t take the bait!

How the Scam Works:

Con artists have a creative array of cover stories to disguise their true intentions. Phishing messages typically use one of three methods to fool victims: 1) the message promises a reward (a gift card, free item); 2) threatens a punishment (unpaid taxes, missed jury duty, deactivated bank account); or, 3) appears entirely mundane (a file from the office scanner).

Phishing scams tend to follow a pattern. The victim receives an email, phone call or text message, called “smishing” or SMS phishing. In the communication, the scammer urges the target to download malware, click a link, or share information. In the case of an email or text, the link frequently leads to a form, which prompts the target to enter personal information.

Tips to Spot This Scam: 

  • If something sounds suspicious, confirm it by calling the company or checking the company website. Type the URL directly into your browser or do a web search. DON'T click on any links in unexpected messages.

  • Be cautious of generic emails. Scammers try to cast a wide net by including little or no specific information in their fake emails. Always be wary of messages that don't contain your name, last digits of your account number or other personalizing information.

To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.

To learn how to protect yourself, go to “10 Steps to Avoid Scams”.

Last Reviewed: March 7, 2017