This time of year is the busiest in the cyber world with increased email, voice/video conferencing, and of course shopping. This is also the busiest time for cyber thieves who tend to target senior citizens more, as they perceive them to be easier targets. Keeping that in mind, in this series of posts we are going to share a few tips, tools, and general advice to help keep you and your loved ones from falling for scams this holiday season and beyond.

These scams can come in many forms, some use fake websites that will look very similar to legitimate online stores. Others are in the form of emails that appear to come from proper companies featuring actual logos and pictures you can find if you went to the real website. Lastly, some criminals will use the phone to try and gather sensitive, personal information from you. For the first part of this 2 part series we will cover: Fake websites and emails.

Fake sites and emails are used for phishing. What is phishing? Phishing is using fake websites, emails, or phone calls to trick you into revealing financial, personal, or medical information about yourself. Here’s what to look out for:

Check YOUR Spelling

The most common way of getting to a fake website is by misspelling its URL, which stands for Uniform Resource Locator, in other words this is the address of a website. So double check the address you type in your browser and make sure it’s accurate.

You’ve Got Bad Mail

Emails are a common way of phishing and are the most prevalent form of luring in victims. These emails can range from looking like it came from your bank or financial institution, you’ve won a lottery, gained an inheritance, and you’ve received a secure message from Facebook, Gmail, Skype, Twitter or other social media site. The ones from banks, for example, advise you that they need to verify your account, or that there may have been fraud committed with account so they need you to verify it by clicking on a link. These links, if clicked, will either take you to a fake site or could possibly install viruses and malware on your computer. It may look like an official site, but check that the address is that of your actual bank and not misspelled. If you think an email might be a real one from your bank, give them a call using the number shown either on the back of your credit card or on one of your statements, NOT a number in the email.

Asking Too Many Questions

A quick way to discern if a website is fake or not, especially if you frequently visit the real site, is if the site asks you for more information than normal. These are commonly visited as the result of clicking on a link in an email. When you get to the site they may ask you for username, password, account number, ATM pin, last 8 digits of your credit card, social security number, or mother’s maiden name.  A real bank would never ask for this kind of information.

Check THEIR Spelling

A fake site will usually have spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors throughout its content. This happens because scammers are trying to get these sites up quickly, but more often than not, these kinds of sites are created by foreign scammers. Real financial institutions have people who do quality checks to ensure spelling errors are not present on websites and their emails. If you see “pLease to logg into your accccount,” don’t login, I actually saw that in a phishing email.

Following the above precautions will help keep you safe on your digital travels through the internet. Check back soon for Part 2 where we will discuss phone calls, and some tools you can use to further protect you and what to do should you get a fraudulent email or phone call.