Phishing for Information
"I had an email from the Internal Revenue Service, supposedly saying I had a refund due," Winters said.
One hundred dollars sounded good to Winters, but not after she read the fine print.
"When I went to the attached form, they had blanks for anything that would end up being able to do identity theft," Winters said.
In this case, the scammers wanted her identity and her bank information. Sally knew immediately something wasn't right because of the personal nature of the questions. Winters admits, she almost got taken for a ride. Scammers could even be contacting you without faking an official organization.
"Chain letters, some are good, but most are not. The originator is trying to collect valid email accounts," said Andy Anderson, Internet Crimes Task Force.
But scammers aren't just emailing you, they're asking for your participation to get your money. Luther Caldwell received a flier saying he won $80,000. All he had to do was deposit a check from them for $2,000 dollars, and send back a personal check for the same amount.
Although everything looked official, Caldwell noticed there was no city listed on the address, just Texas.
"The check was from Thomasville, Georgia, and the area code and envelope stamp was from Canada," Caldwell said.
Nothing seemed to add up, besides these people having his personal information, the check he received may not have been real. In the worst case scenario, he cashes the check, and he would be out the money they promised. He then would have to re-pay the bank for the fraudulent amount. In total, Caldwell could have been out nearly $5,000.
The lesson learned here in any situation involving your personal information is this:
"The IRS nor any other legitimate organization asks people for information that's unsolicited like that," Caldwell said.
The link provided on Winters's email is no longer working and the organization that sent Caldwell his letter of award would not comment.
Experts say the best thing to do is to avoid even opening suspicious e-mail. And investing in good spyware is the best way to prevent receiving phony emails.
If you have a problem or concern you'd like us to investigate, give the Target 8 team a call at 573-884-6397, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org