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Email Phishing – Have you been lured in?

Email Phishing – Have you been lured in?
Words and images supplied by Farmside

Now more than ever, farmers are reliant on technology to assist in every day farming decisions. Requirements from local government and pressure from consumers means farming information needs to be more accessible than ever. The better New Zealand farmers are doing this the more opportunities for business growth arise, however, with this also comes risk. In 2017 New Zealanders reported $10.1 million of losses to online scams and fraud, these reported losses are likely only a fraction of the actual money lost.

Common sense has been the predominant piece of advice when addressing cyber safety for adults, however as scams are becoming more sophisticated, they are becoming increasingly difficult to identify.

One of the most common scams that catches New Zealander’s out is referred to as “email phishing”. As the name suggests, “email phishing” has parallels to real fishing, but using email ‘lures’ in order to ‘fish’ for personal information from the ‘sea’ of internet users. These emails attempt to trick you into providing your personal information by appearing as though they have come from a trusted source, i.e. using logos and company brand names, some of these emails can appear surprisingly authentic. While they appear to be genuine and targeted specifically to you – these emails are mass produced and are sent to hundreds, if not thousands, of addresses at once.

These emails may ask you to update your account information, complete a survey, make a payment or another request which would allow them to acquire your personal information. Some phishers use scare tactics to try and intimidate the user into giving up their information, for example, they claim to be from Inland Revenue and if you don’t make a payment for an overdue tax bill you will face legal action.

How to spot a phishing email?

  • Unexpected sender/from address
  • Asking you to provide usernames, passwords or any other account details
  • Branding or logo errors
  • Spelling mistakes and poor grammar
  • Possibly a sense of unnecessary urgency (i.e your account will be shut down if you do not comply immediately)
  • The email contains a mismatched URL. Sometimes phishers will embed a URL for the user to click on to complete their instructions. These URL links often look legitimate, however, if you hover your mouse over a URL you should see the actual hyperlinked address. If the hyperlinked address is different to the address shown on the email it likely fraudulent
  • If you’re unsure an email is genuine, call the company involved from contact details provided on their website – do not use info provided in the suspicious email

What should I do if I receive one of these emails?

  • Do not reply to the email. Any interaction with these emails; be it replying or clicking links alerts the scammers you have interacted with the email and means you are susceptible to be targeted again
  • Report as spam/delete email
  • Talk to the company that has been impersonated in the email via their contact details on their legitimate website to alert them to the scam

Online Safety Basics

  • Think twice if you’re unexpectedly contacted about a deal or a problem – even if they claim to be from a legitimate organisation like the bank
  • Don’t respond to an unexpected contact about problems with your computer – no one is going to contact you out of the blue about issues with your computer
  • Legitimate organisations will never ask you for your passwords
  • Think carefully before entering your personal details online
  • Be wary of unusual payment requests like gift cards, pre-loaded debit cards, money transfer or iTunes vouchers – these are untraceable methods of payment
  • Be wary of partners recently met online who request money or hint at money problems
  • If you’re using a trusted trading or booking website, don’t pay anywhere outside of that window/address
  • Invest in a good, credible antivirus and keep your software up to date. Many free versions online are fake and can download harmful malware rather than detecting and removing it.
  • Back up your data – if you fall victim to a cyber attack you may lose access to your computer, phone or other devices. Ensuring you have backed this data to a separate location means you won’t lose that data regardless of what happens to the device
  • Only download apps from official app stores, set them to automatically update and check their privacy settings. Some apps are not legitimate and contain malware (viruses).
  • Use strong passwords that are different for every account, never share your passwords
  • Only use trusted WiFi connections, especially when creating and logging into online accounts, making payments or accessing online banking
  • If someone offers you money or another offer up front, do not take it
  • Always avoid clicking on links within emails where possible and/or where the source may be suspicious or unexpected, instead type the known address directly into your browser or use your trusted bookmarks.

Scam Spotlight
Wangiri (“one ring and cut”) Fraud

Wangiri calls are missed calls from an overseas number, with the caller hanging up after one ring or less, before the receiver can answer. Scammers behind these calls are hoping to entice you to call the number back upon seeing the missed call notification. If these numbers are called back, once connected the caller is charged premium rates to this overseas number while a message plays to entice you to stay on the line as long as possible. Callers can be charged anything from $1 per minute to $50 per minute.

One variation of the Wangiri scam is an operator will answer when you return the missed call, pretending to be from a trusted organisation and then attempts to get your personal information or payment details. A variation of this targeted thousands of New Zealanders in early 2018, scammers were pretending to be from a large supermarket chain and promised people grocery vouchers if they completed a survey.

If you receive an unexpected call from an overseas number, do not call the number back. Do not interact with the number at all. If you suspect you have been a victim of Wangiri fraud, check your phone bill and report it to your telecommunications company.

About the Author


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