Email Scam Avoidance Tips Offered by Consumer Reports

Posted on August 1, 2012

In this digital age, scams have grown increasingly high-tech and complex, seeming to evolve at the same rate as communication technology.  Because you never quite know what form a threat to your financial security is going to take, it’s more important than ever to be prepared to identify scams and know what to do if you’re targeted.

A new article from Consumer Reports discusses a recent scam and offers tips on how to avoid disaster should you find yourself as a target.  The report is the result of a recent fraud in which scammers purported to be from the AARP.  The emails sent out by the scammers alert recipients to the fact that they have earned a Visa gift card worth $1,000.  Similar text messages have also been dispersed offering gift cards worth the same amount of money that could be used at places like Best Buy, Target, and Walmart.

If it’s an offer that sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is.  The first tipoff that something is wrong should be the spelling of AARP.  The organization always lists its name just like that, AARP, but the emails instead read Aarp, with the three latter letters in lower case.

Should the email recipient click the link to “redeem” their gift card, they are tasked with filling out a survey.  This survey asks the target to list medical conditions, the type of credit card owners currently hold, any debt accumulated, and the level of household income.  This information is then auctioned off to marketers who can use the data to hone their sales pitches and identity thieves who can use it for financial fraud.

Perhaps the most damning part of the scam, and the most dangerous, is a request to download an app.  There’s a very good chance that this app is actually malware that has the ability to hack your computer in order to gain control and learn additional information about you.

There are steps, though, that can be taken to avoid this scam and any other scams you may stumble upon in the future.  First, don’t click on a link until you are positive the source is reliable.  Even an acquaintance’s email account can be hacked and used to draw in unsuspecting users.  And if you do click a link, certainly don’t fill in any personal information if prompted.

To stop scams before they can even invade your computer, you should enable the antiphishing function available on any browser.  Companies like McAfee also offer such programs, which can be downloaded directly from the web for free.

These simple steps can also be followed on your phone should you receive a questionable text message.  Basically, it boils down to using caution and not taking unnecessary risks.

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