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Don’t Get Mugged on the Internet – Understanding “Phishing”

March 28th, 2011 · No Brilliant Opinions · Travel Tips, Vacation rentals

I’ve started to approach opening email with the trepidation of a child touching a hot stove.  I  received two emails this morning which made my “scam” alert go off.  Both emails were inquiring about my vacation rental home – with bogus phone numbers and dates that were either already booked or ten years from now.  What made my scam-dar go off?  Both emails were worded exactly the same.  I replied I was booked to the first email and  deleted the second one. An hour later  I got another bogus email (complete with spelling and grammatical errors)  from “Homeaway.”

Dear Homeaway Client,

Due to a server failure your account has been restored from backup.
To avoid service interruption we kindly ask you to login in your account until 4/05/2011 and verify account integrity or update your personal information’s if is required.

Now I was understanding the scam.  I got several fake rental inquiries so that my email address could be secured.  The goal was now to get me to log onto a fake website to get my password and/or financial information.  This scam was fairly straightforward.  I called the folks at the real HomeAway.com, who informed me that I was being “phished.” They were kind enough to walk me through changing the security settings on my account. In addition, HomeAway will  verify that my guests have not released funds or private financial data to one of these con artists.

Other con artists will set up a website that looks like a legitimate bank, retailer or government agency. Have you ever gotten emails from Bank of America or Paypal “notifying” you that your account is closed or on a security hold?  Hmmm… but you don’t have a Bank of America or Paypal account.  This is your friendly internet mugger at work.   Here’s how to avoid the bad guys.

  1. Be alert to possible phishy email.  The actual URL doesn’t match the text URL. The email asks for you to update, confirm or enter personal or financial information.  The email is filled with spelling errors or looks like it was written by your toddler.
  2. Don’t reply to emails asking for personal or financial information.  If in doubt, call the company. Do not call any numbers listed in the email.  Use phone numbers from  a bill you have on hand.
  3. Do not click on links within an email. Log on to a company’s site directly.
  4. Don’t open any attachments unless you are expecting them.
  5. Install and use anti-spam and anti-virus software.

If you think you have been “phished” contact your bank and/or credit card companies immediately and have a fraud alert placed on your accounts.  Use reputable sources to rent vacation homes. Fraudsters are taking photos from legitimate websites, posting on “Ted’sList” and collecting “rental fees” from unsuspecting clients. Remember, email is not secure and reputable owners will not ask you to email credit card information.  Also, if you are renting a vacation home –  never wire funds.

I like to think of the internet in the same way I think of my neighborhood … lots of great places and things to see and do but you still need your street smarts to make it.  If you’ve been the victim of an internet scam or have tips on avoiding a scam, please comment below. When we share, we show that we care.

 

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