4 Tips to Keep in Mind to Avoid SMS Scams

From time to time, we receive strange texts from numbers we don’t recognize telling us that our Amazon account has or needs a delivery update or that there is unusual activity detected in our bank account. Texts like these are accompanied with a suspicious looking link that asks you to click to log in. The issue with these messages is that sometimes it could be difficult to tell if it’s a scam when it mentions a company, bank, or other entity we typically interact with. While this may be so, we’ve outlined a few tips for you to keep in mind when you get that suspicious SMS message:

Tip #1: Don’t Click on Links from a Text You Don’t Recognize

It’s important to look out for one of the bigger signs that the text you received could be a scam: if it asks you to click on a link. Usually, you can tell when a link is fraudulent through the domain name. Other times it may be a bit more difficult to assess the link, especially if the company name is used within the link. In whichever case, it’s best practice to just avoid clicking on any such links sent to your phone. If you receive a delivery notification that asks you to check its status through a link, go to your web browser or application instead and log into your account to do so. 

Tip #2: Don’t Reply to Suspicious SMS Messages

Messages that you don’t recognize could ask you to reply “YES” or “NO” or to give them a call about your bank account that was experiencing suspicious activity. In any case, avoid replying back to such messages and note that call to action texts that you don’t recognize could very well be an SMS scam. 

Tip #3: Be Mindful of the Message Content

It’s important to look out for a few tell-tale signs within message content that may reveal the malicious nature of a text. Several things to spot include the greeting message, spelling, grammar, and the link provided. If anything seems out of character through the message, then you’re probably right to think it may be fraudulent. Again, it’s always best to sign into your account through the official website than clicking on a link you’re unsure of – especially if the domain doesn’t appear to be an official company website link. 

Tip #4: Use Your Phone’s Block Feature

To help you avoid receiving any further messages from a sender, iPhones come equipped with the ability to “Report Junk” for texts you don’t recognize. The option appears when your phone recognizes that the number is not part of your contacts list. You can also block a number that sends you malicious messages by pressing on the contact info button at the top of your iMessage, press on the number once more at the top, then scroll to the bottom to press “Block this Caller”.

Phishing Scam With Fake Invoices Spreads Across US and UK

A malware called Emotet is spreading through the US and UK, specifically targeting banks and financial sectors according to a report published by Menlo Security. Cybercriminals have implemented a malware campaign that spreads via phishing emails, with the attachment of a malicious Microsoft Word document attachment. The email is made to look official through mention of financial topics such as invoices or banking details in the subject line, attracting victims to click on the file. 

Emotet malware use was on the decline back in December 2019, yet began to pick up momentum again early into the new year as cybercriminals use it for new malicious purposes. 

These targeted attacks are meant to disrupt multiple sectors including media/entertainment, transportation, and food/beverage in locations such as the US, UK, Philippines, Spain, and India. Emotet attacks have largely been focused on the financial services sector, with half of these campaign attacks affecting the US and a quarter affecting the UK. 

After a user clicks to download the infected Word file and presses on “enable editing”, embedded macros are deployed onto the victim’s computer, which then successfully transfers the Emotet malware. Once transferred over to the user’s device, Emotet not only steals sensitive information, but can also facilitate the spread of more malware to other computers that use a shared network.  

Emotet can’t be traced to just one source of administration, since its function as a botnet infects Windows computers globally, which then spreads further through those infected devices. 

As Emotet continues to wreak havoc, business employees should take precautionary measures in avoiding any suspicious emails that arrive in their inbox, as documents or any links attached could very well be infected with malware. Users should be cautious of those emails that ask to “enable macros”. Keeping computer operating systems up-to-date is also an important step to take in order to stay safe.

Cybercriminals Impersonate These Well-Known Companies in Phishing Emails

Suspicious emails coming through to your mailbox? Does the email claim to be from Microsoft and need your login information to fix an unfounded issue? Cybercriminals increasingly send victims emails such as these, impersonating large-scale companies to appear legitimate, and it’s not only Microsoft impersonations. From Facebook to Amazon, to Paypal and Netflix, it’s a good idea to double check where those emails are actually coming from.

Cybersecurity company Vade Secure conducted an analysis of companies that were most impersonated and found that Microsoft was one of the most used brands in phishing schemes, with an increase of 15.5% since the previous year. Due to the popularity in Outlook mail and Office365, Microsoft is a widely popular impersonation target. With businesses and corporations relying on Office365 for keeping restricted and sensitive files, hackers look for any means necessary to get their hands on such valuable information. Access to Office365 accounts can also open more doors for targeting other users to gain access to more accounts. 

Illegitimate emails claiming to be from Microsoft ask users to log in via a link provided by the hacker and open up a spoof page that mirrors the actual website, prompting users to input their login credentials and submitting it to the cybercriminal.

Paypal comes out as the second most common company to be used in phishing schemes, as the brand is easily recognizable by many. While Paypal still remains a popular choice in targeting victims with fake emails, malicious URL targeting has been declining.

The third most popular company to be used in a phishing attack is Facebook, as Vade Secure tracked a 176% increase in fake URL use to target users’ social media accounts. The social network acts as a perfect opportunity for hackers to send phishing messages to victims’ friends. Facebook access can particularly be harmful if victims have third party applications connected, to which cybercriminals can also access. 

The report further lists other brands like Netflix, Bank of America, and Apple that are also used in these emails. Amazon is now the eighth most popular brand for phishing use by hackers, and its use has grown over 400% in just a year, this likely due to the popularity in Amazon Prime Day and the extensive number of shoppers on the site. 

Phishing attacks are continuously utilized by hackers due to the cheap and easy way it reaches a mass of users. If you receive any such suspicious emails in your inbox, mark it as spam immediately. If you are ever unsure about your account, log in through the company’s official site instead of clicking on malicious email links.

Cybercrime Groups Still Operate Over Facebook Platform

Cisco’s Talos threat intelligence researchers have identified an ongoing cybersecurity problem that looms within Facebook: dozens of groups created to trade and purchase spamming and phishing services.

The groups have been noted as partaking in “shady (at best) and illegal (at worst) activities,” using easily identifiable and locatable names such as “Spammer & Hacker Professional” or “Facebook hack (Phishing)” and yet remained up and active without intervention from Facebook itself.

Researchers at Cisco have found approximately 74 groups that partook in cybercriminal activities such as selling stolen login and account credentials and banking information. Others would sell tools for email spamming. The groups had amassed around 385,000 members in total and were easy to search for through simple keyword phrases like “spam” and “carding” when one looked into Facebook group search.

Cisco’s Talos team had notified Facebook about the hacker groups through abuse reporting, to which Facebook had responded by removing a few of the groups while keeping others up and only removing some posts deemed as a violation of policy. After the Talos researchers spoke directly with Facebook’s security team, the groups were taken down, but the issue of cybercrime on the social media site still remains a prevalent problem as new groups always seem to emerge.

Such activity isn’t new to the Facebook community. Groups like these have been operating for years on the social media platform. Brian Krebs from KrebsonSecurity had found 120 cybercrime groups back in 2018, for example, notifying Facebook in order to have the groups removed.

A spokesperson told The Verge that “[Facebook] know[s] [it] needs to be more vigilant and [they’re] investing heavily to fight this type of activity.”

Protecting Your Email

Everyone uses email for personal use and for work. It is the number one channel of communication for most office settings, so it’s no surprise that scammers commonly target inboxes to steal information.

As a reminder, you should never send sensitive information like passwords, social security numbers, or account numbers via email. For more ways to protect yourself from information theft via email, check out our infographic:

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