Don’t fall for phishing

HARLINGEN — Ruth Hipple was pretty sure her husband Gary wouldn’t order nearly $200 in books from Amazon.

But, when she received an email apparently from the online business giant, stating he had, she hesitated. It appeared to be from an address and it confirmed an order and shipment with details including a payment summary and several links.

“He was interested in ordering a book,” Ruth said.

Gary hadn’t decided about any order before Ruth went to bed. When she woke up and checked her email the next morning, she saw the order.

It was an email from Amazon and it looked legitimate. But it was the dollar figure that had her questioning the scenario. It turned out, her initial instinct was right. Gary didn’t order anything from Amazon, especially not $193 worth of anything.

This was a scam. More specifically, this was a phishing scam.

If Ruth would have clicked on any of the links within the email to find out what her husband ordered, she may have been at risk of personal and financial information being exposed.

Phishing is a type of internet or electronic attack that intends to steal user data, including logins and credit card numbers. It occurs when the email criminal masquerades as a trusted entity, such as a legitimate business like Amazon, Microsoft, PayPal, Netflix, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Facebook and Chase. The emails often include logos and look real.

Receivers of these emails trust the companies shown on the emails and are willing to click on links and answer questions.

She said several women in her quilting group had experienced similar phishing emails from Amazon.

They aren’t the only ones. According to the most recent statistics, about 156 million phishing emails are sent globally on a daily basis. That number is likely on the rise.

The online scams can be difficult to recognize.

That is obvious based on the numbers.

According to worldwide statistics, about 16 million of these phishing emails make it through filters. Most phishing emails are stopped in spam filters, but 10 percent reach your inbox.

Half of those emails are opened and 800,000 links are clicked. Another 10 percent of people who click the link are baited and their information results in stolen identities, financial loss, credit card frauds and other internet scams.

Ruth and Gary just want people to be aware of these scenarios. Without some communication and a gut feeling, they could have been one of those 80,000 daily victims.

Phishing by the numbers:

156 million — Phishing emails sent out every day

16 million — Make it through filters

8 million — of these emails are opened

800,000 — links are clicked

80,000 — fall for a scam every day

What you need to know about phishing:

>> It is a type of social and electronic attack that intends to steal user data, including login credentials and credit card numbers.

>> It occurs when an “attacker,” masquerading as a trusted entity, dupes a victim into opening an email, instant message or text message. The recipient is then tricked into clicking a malicious link, which can lead to the installation of malware resulting in the revealing of sensitive information.

How to pinpoint and then protect yourself from phishing scams:

>> A spoofed message often contains subtle mistakes that expose the true identity. These include spelling mistakes or changes to domain names. However, they can also look very real, especially from your bank or online retailer. Users must stop and think about why they’re even receiving such an email.

>> Watch out for shortened links, especially on social media

>> Does that email look suspicious? Read it again

>> Be wary of threats and urgent deadlines, especially those asking you to verify your account or warn you that your account will be closed if you don’t respond.

>> Don’t click on links you are unsure about