Highland Park police warn businesses, individuals to beware of new email scams
If a corporate executive receives an urgent email resembling a subpoena, chances are it is one of many recent attempts to scam the public by “spear phishing," the Highland Park Police Department said recently.
The oddly named subterfuge targets both companies and individuals in an effort to collect personal information, often claiming that the recipient must appear before a grand jury on phony tax-related or other white-collar-crime charges. Those behind the communications watch for any users who click on a link that contains malware, enabling them to secretly collect personal data such as passwords and account numbers from the recipient's computer.
Highland Park residents can protect themselves against identity theft, while sharpening their own detective skills, by watching for certain tell-tale signs of fraud, including spelling and grammar errors, requests for information to be routed through Gmail instead of the organization itself, and/or irregular URL addresses not related to the “bank” itself.
Ironically, these fraudulent messages often contain warnings of entirely fictitious “fraud alerts.” The Highland Park Police Department offered some sample text that indicates a scam at work:
“We have noticed that there has been abnormal transactions on you Banking, LLC MASTER CARD account and you may be a victim of fraud. To put a hold on your account and to get issued a new card, please click on the link…”
Simply by deconstructing the message, consumers can pick up on at least one blatant grammatical error ("transactions," a plural, used with "has," a singular verb form), plus a typographical error ("you" instead of "your Banking," with banking wrongly capitalized).
Such consumer vigilance is needed to get rid of these financial predators, who prey on fear of prosecution. Common scam emails urgently allege that your tax payment just bounced, your account was overdrawn or there's a problem with your 401(k). Of course, all of these can be verified with a phone call to your bank, which also can verify whether or not it sent you any email.