Recent conversations here at the Library tell us that Spring - and scams - are in the air! We wanted to warn you of scams we have recently encountered via email, cell phone and text message and give you some advice on staying secure.
One of our Reference staff received an email purporting to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and even included the official IRS logo. It informed her that she was due for a refund and - here's the part that should tip you off - all she had to do was send in her credit card number, PIN, social security number, issuing bank, etc. The IRS, your bank, a retail store, your Internet service provider - these entities will never ask you for that kind of information in an email. No matter how official it looks, never respond to these emails or call a phone number included in the message. Find an official phone number for the IRS or for your bank and make a call to inquire about the message. You will undoubtedly find out that you were almost a victim of "phishing," random messages sent out in a variety of platforms, just looking for that one, oblivious, innocent soul who will be conned into sending all kinds of personal information to someone who will take advantage of it.
Want to see how savvy you are to "spam" emails and "phishing?" One of our IT specialists recommends this Web site: http://www.sonicwall.com/phishing/
Take the quiz there and see how much you know about scammers and spammers.
Another approach that I often take when I receive a suspect message - copy the email address, phone number or some of the other info and just pop it into a Google search. I did this last Sunday when I received a strange text message, supposedly from my bank, saying that my checking account had suspicious activity on it and that I needed to call the supplied telephone number immediately. I knew something was wrong because my bank does not have my cell phone number! I typed the phone number they provided into Google and sure enough, I found a Web site where people can go to log complaints about unwanted calls. Just that day, dozens of people had written comments about this same text message I'd received. It was not from any legitimate bank - the phone number directed you to an automated message, instructing you to punch in your bank account number and undoubtedly handing your bank information over to some con artists.
One more Web site you might find useful: http://www.snopes.com/ Something of a classic on the Internet, Snopes can help you make sense of another type of email, the one with a dramatic story of a kidnapped child, a corporate cover-up, a miracle cure or some other piece of slightly unbelievable news. These emails can be upsetting, harmful and embarrassing, if you're the one who passes on the story that ends up being false or far from the truth. For years, we've called these "urban legends," and Snopes has done a fine job of unravelling truth from fiction so bookmark their site as a reference tool and... be careful out there!