Phishing scams: What they are & how to avoid them

Protecting your money

Picture this — you receive an email out of the blue from your local bank informing you that your account will be closed unless you provide them with urgent confidential information, such as your Social Security number and date of birth. You follow along with the steps, assuming that the bank needs this information to fix whatever problem they have encountered. You submit what they ask for, only to quickly find out that this urgent call to action was not from your bank, but rather a fraudster on the other end of the computer tricking you into giving your private information.

Phishing scams (over the phone, via email, and through fake websites) are unfortunately on the rise, so we would like to provide insight on how to dodge these tactics and what to do if you are targeted.

What to look for
Fraudsters often send out mass emails or coordinate calls that target a large audience, hoping that a few victims will take the bait and provide confidential information. While they literally “fish” for information, there are a few indications that can signal to you that something might not be right:

Immediate call to action. As described in the scenario above, fraudsters often try to trick their targets into thinking they need to act quick to fix a problem, or provide certain information because a “trusted professional” is requesting it. At Fort Pitt, and the majority of other advisory firms around the nation, we would never email clients suddenly informing them of big financial changes, and then request immediate identity-related information.

Spelling errors and generic greetings. If you receive an email from your advisor — or any other trusted professional — they will identify you by your first name. Often, fraudsters send out mass emails so the greetings will usually read “Good afternoon, Member,” or “Hello Client.” Also, any website or email that includes blatant spelling errors, logos that look odd, or links that go to a page you are not familiar with, are signs that this is fake.

-“You’ve won an all-inclusive pre-paid vacation to Hawaii.” While that might sound fantastic, chances are this is a major scam. Fraudsters will spark your interest with the promise of a cash prize or valuable offering, however they will “require” certain information in order to finish the transaction — such as your bank account number or street address.

What to do
If you receive a phone call that seems fishy, it’s best to just hang up and keep the number in mind in case they call back. When scams occur via email or website, be sure to report this. For our clients, you can forward us any suspect emails to keep them on our radar. From there, we can submit the emails to custodians who have service teams that oversee and manage fraudulent cases.

Keeping our clients financially safe is a priority for our executives at Fort Pitt. By recognizing the signs and knowing the steps to take if you are targeted, you can avoid these pesky phishing scams.