INDIANA NEWS: Stay vigilant against scammers in 2018

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (INS) – In 2017, “phishing” – those emails or texts that look legitimate but are not – became the number-one scam in the U.S., knocking the venerable tax-collection scam out of first place.

Once a bogus phishing text or email is opened, thieves can often access personal information on a phone or computer.

And what’s even worse, according to Steve Bernas, the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau in Chicago, is that they can often infect your workplace systems as well.

“Employees or customers, as well as consumers, tend to click on these phishing emails and then what happens is, they open up the corporate computers that way to the scammers’ malware and viruses – and that’s how these companies get hacked,” he explains.

Bernas advises people to never open a file or link in an email that they weren’t expecting. Another scam that popped up often last year is known as “Can You Hear Me?” That’s when fraudsters fake having a headset problem in an attempt to get the unsuspecting person on the phone to say “yes” on a recorded line – a response that can then be edited and used as phony proof of purchases in the future.

People looking for employment may also be targets of cyber thieves in 2018. Bernas says you might go to a legitimate website, then become a target of cyber thieves who will email you saying they have a job possibility for you.

“They tell you of a job, you don’t need an interview, nothing – they tell you a price they’re going to pay you, but they need some information from you,” he adds. “Your Social Security number, you know, to verify your employment, and sometimes they ask for your credit card information for an application fee. And those are scammers trying to steal your identity; they have no job.”

Every year, people fall victim to tax scams when crooks call them, claiming to be from the IRS and demanding payment. Bernas says the federal government will never try to collect a debt that way. He adds that scammers often pose as legitimate businesses selling fake vacations, high-demand merchandise at discount prices, and even fake pets.