How to Protect Yourself from Email Phishing Scams

You may want to think twice before doing someone a favor — at least if it involves purchasing gift cards. 

A new scam is on the rise. 

Stop! Don’t Buy That Gift Card

Picture this: Your boss, grandkid, or pastor sends you an email asking you to help them buy some gift cards. They may tell you they’re very busy, or that it’s a gift for someone else. The email is even signed with their name. It sounds innocent enough, right? 

Not quite. 

If they ask you to buy gift cards, scratch off the back, and email them the codes, then you’ve probably been targeted by scammers. 

It’s called a phishing email. A phishing email tricks you into doing something you don’t want to do by pretending to be from someone you know, like your grandchild. And according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, this type of email fraud has been reported more than 166,000 times and resulted in more than $26 billion in losses in the just the last three years.

The trick to these phishing emails is something called spoofing. Spoofing includes all the tactics hackers use to make the email look like it’s from some person or company you know and trust so you’ll do what they ask. A favorite spoofing tactic is to change the “from” address in the email so you’ll trust it.

The objective of these phishing emails is to get your cash, and the most popular way to do that today is via gift cards. According to the Agari Cyber Intelligence Division, 65% of these phishing attacks now request gift cards with a minimum of $200 and an average of over $1,500. The most popular gift card requests are from companies you know like Google, Amazon, Apple, Target and Walmart.

How can you protect yourself from phishing emails? 

Be suspicious of any email (or phone call, or website) requesting money from you.

If someone you know requests a gift card, stop. Don’t buy it yet. Call them up first and confirm the email is from them. If nothing else, you have an excuse to catch up.

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