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Phishing scams are costing American business owners billions of dollars each year. Often they are backed by large communist nations. This means they have unlimited resources, and there’s really no way to stop them. The only thing we can do is be prepared. We must educate ourselves on how phishing scams work and stay up-to-date on the latest scams.
In general, if you get an email that sounds too good to be true, then it is; don’t believe it. Amazon isn’t going to give you a $100 gift card for merely filling out a short survey. Starbucks isn’t going to provide you with a $50 gift card for visiting a specific website. We would all love to get $100 worth of free stuff from Apple, but this probably won’t happen.
These days, you have to be vigilant. You can’t just believe everything you read online. It’s very easy now for hackers to duplicate an email so that it looks exactly like the real thing. So how can you tell it’s not real? Actually, it’s pretty easy. Just hover over the “From” address in the email and check it out.
Here’s one that’s going around now. It’s an email from Kohl’s saying that your account has been locked due to suspicious activity. “Click the link below to reset your password.” If you click this link, hackers will download a harmful virus to your computer.
This is what gives it away as a scam. The “From” email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The real customer service address to Kohl’s is:
There’s no “T” in their email address. It’s simple, and yet people overlook little things like this every day. Always hover over the links in a suspicious email to see where they really go. If you’re not sure, then delete the email. Don’t take risks with your data.
The term phishing was adapted from the word “fishing.” A hacker sends out tempting emails to try and get you to download an attachment or visit a harmful website. Once you take the bait, they infect your computer with malware or a ransomware virus. Their end game is to steal your data, credit card information or log-in information.
Malware and ransomware are the two major types of harmful viruses today. Ransomware encrypts all of your files until you pay the ransom. Businesses all across America lose money each year from this scam.
You only have a couple of choices once a virus has been downloaded. You can pay the ransom and hope to get your files back, or you can take your chances and perhaps the scammers won’t destroy everything.
If you have current backups to your database, your IT department can reboot and reinstall everything. This will take a few days and it will cost you in time and revenue lost, but some company owners prefer this option over paying the ransom.
Malware includes Trojans, worms, spyware, adware, and rootkits. These malicious programs each have different goals, but all are destructive and aimed at harming your computers.
As technology evolves, cyber thieves discover new and more efficient ways to steal from people. As people become familiar with some phishing scams, they may not work as well. The solution is to come up with new scams that are appealing—things that users may not have heard about before.
The entire landscape of cybercrime is changing. In the beginning, hackers were just young guys, trying to find clever ways to pass the time. But the crime worked so well that it began to raise the attention of bigger players.
Unfortunately, this crime has become so successful that the governments of countries are now involved. Most ransomware scandals originate in Russia, China and North Korea. These governments employ hundreds of hackers. They have teams of IT experts who work around the clock to create new and more effective hacking scams.
When hackers are backed by a government like China, they have practically unlimited resources. This makes them even harder to stop. If they were merely individuals committing crimes for personal gain, the authorities could track them down and put them in jail.
Today’s cybercriminals are well-organized agencies that are part of a large foreign government, so stopping them is almost impossible.
Below, are some of the newest cybercrimes:
Sextortion: Have you ever sent nude pics to someone? Even if you haven’t, hackers sometimes claim that they’ve got some from your webcam or they’ve buried pornography on your computer that they plan to expose to the authorities if you don’t pay them.
If you own a business, then this can be a crime that pays well for thieves. They send the business owner a little sample of the erotic photos, then demand money or else they’ll publish them on the Internet.
The problem with this crime is that there’s no guarantee you’ll get all copies of the photos back. You may pay the criminals and still not be sure.
Gift Cards: This scam is highly successful because typically the thieves don’t ask for very much money. Many victims will go ahead and pay even if they suspect that it’s a trick, just because there are only a few hundred dollars at stake.
You may get a phone call from someone saying they’re from a creditor or the IRS. They will speak in hostile threatening tones. They’ll claim that if you don’t pay up immediately, terrible things will happen; like repossessing your car. Next, they instruct you to go to a local store like Walmart and buy gift cards in the amount you owe. Once you buy them, you call the thief back and give them the numbers found on the back of the cards. Once they have these, they can use them online to make purchases.
Wire Fraud Scam: Hackers are targeting the human resource functions of businesses of all types with phishing. They’re convincing employees to swap out direct deposit banking information to offshore accounts.
A nonprofit in Kansas City (KVC Health Systems) said that there were numerous attempts each month involving scammers who were trying to convince their payroll personnel to change information about where to send employee pay.
The IRS recently released a warning about an uptick in a wide range of fraud attempts involving payroll information.
Phishing/Ransomware: Phishing crimes have become so successful that now there are variants like spear-phishing, vishing, and smishing. These are all forms of the same ruse.
A hacker will send you a very convincing email. It may say something like, “Congratulations! You’ve just won $100 from Amazon. Click on the link below to claim your prize.”
As a business owner in the Chicago area, you’ve spent years building a great company. Now some lazy hacker is trying to steal everything you’ve worked for.
The first thing you need is knowledge. You should know how cyber attacks occur. It’s important to stay current with the latest phishing scams. You must know how ransomware works.
Train your employees so they’ll know what to look for. One careless employee can open the door to thieves and cost you thousands of dollars. Make sure your employees can recognize a phishing email. They need regular training.
Your business also needs a strong cybersecurity program. In many cases, businesses can profit from hiring an outside IT services company. They will come in and look things over from a fresh perspective. They will perform penetration testing to assess your level of security.
A good IT support company will perform a full assessment of your security protocols and let you know whether you need to add layers of protection. They’ll make recommendations for improvements that you could make. They can come out quarterly and talk to your employees about the latest phishing scams. In this day and age, you must do everything possible to protect your business in Chicagoland.
Need more information about cybersecurity or IT in general? Check out our Tech Articles.