As an IT Professional (and the Webmaster of ILostMyJob.com), I’ve wanted to post this reminder again for a while. Although I am the kind of person who always hopes for the best, it does help me at times to prepare for the worst — especially dealing with the Internet.
We’re entering a holiday season, and some of us will shop online. It’s a perfect time for cyber criminals! And, in your job transition, you may be posting your name and contact information to lots of places, so you may see more junk emails and calls.
You have enough things going on right now — you don’t need to be hacked, have your life disrupted or computer filled with junk software, spyware, adware or WORSE.
Just this Monday morning, in reviewing my email from the weekend, I found dozens of attempts to hack or steal my personal information. My virus scanner found a handful of emails with viruses directly attached. Other emails that seem to come from places where I do business are BOGUS, and if I clicked the links I’d be putting myself at risk.
So, here is my reminder, and it may sound harsh, but it works.
Do not click links in ANY email from ANYBODY.
Maybe this is extreme, but I sincerely believe it is important to have a skeptical point of view about who is emailing you and why. One exception to this abundant caution is when the email relates to something you expected to receive or from someone you absolutely trust (and you know they haven’t been hacked). The fake emails floating around used to be obvious (someone with bad English wanting you to share $70,000,000USD with them). Now, fake emails are VERY WELL CRAFTED. Almost perfect forgeries.
The way to tell it’s fake is to hover your mouse over the links in the email (do not click them) and you’ll see the links go to a different site than the email says. This is called PHISHING and it’s a super duper effective way to rob people.
Instead, here is what you do: If the email is from PayPal and you have a PayPal account, you open up a web browser and go directly to PayPal and check things out. Do not be surprised when things are fine, even if an email that seems to be from PayPal says your account is in trouble.
If you do business with Wells Fargo, do NOT click the link in the email when it says you have to click to update your account information. Instead, open up a web browser, go directly to the Wells Fargo website, and sign in.
Do not give personal information over the phone to someone who calls you out of the blue, even if it sounds like a legit company.
Last Thursday, I got a call from an insurance company. The caller ID was strange (some letters in the phone number). Right away, the person asked for my name, date of birth, and social. I said, “Is there a number I can call you back at? I am not comfortable providing my private information over the phone to a person or business I do not know. ” I got a phone number, called back, and it was legit, but here is the problem:
Nice people emailing or calling out of the blue and nicely asking you for personal information is the #1 way to get hacked! We have virus scanners and technical tools that can do a lot of the security work for us, but technology can’t prevent us from making a mistake with our own behaviors and giving our information to someone with intent to use it for their own gain.
In my post today, I’m stopping just short of saying DO NOT TRUST EMAIL or PHONE CALLS or ANYONE. I am not saying that exactly. What I am saying is, don’t be the easy mark for criminals. You are busy enough in your job transition, keeping things going. Do you need more things to deal with?