Who to trust?

David Leen discusses the advances in phishing techniques, and how it’s becoming increasingly difficult to decipher between what’s genuine and what’s spam.

phishingI had three momentous events over the weekend, the first was when I received my first text advising me that I might be due a refund on my packaged bank account. I was unaware that I had a packaged bank account as I definitely don’t have a packaged bank account, so that was news to me.

The second event was a phone call coming “Internationally” which I assumed would be another firm advising me of a possible packaged bank account claim, my wife suggested I should let it ring off, but I did pick it up and it turned out to be John Lewis electronically telling me my new toaster was available for collection from their store. Exciting times in the Leen household.

The third was a very basic email saying that I needed to respond to a verification process for my bank account; this looked like a hoax to me – I forwarded it to my bank for them to follow up with.

Dear Customer,

Your account has been flagged as one of the numerous accounts that needs to be reviewed. The main reasons for this action are:

* Multiple login errors
* Abuse & Terms of Use Issues
* Billing / Payment Issues

Use the link below to follow the verification process.

* XXXXXX.XXXXXX

Security Advisory
Customer Service
XXXX Bank plc

It did get me wondering that you need to be constantly on your toes, and that really the approach to emails and texts should be with a degree of caution. McAfee published some statistics recently that said 97% of 19,000 people surveyed were unable to spot a phishing email correctly. This may raise stress levels for a lot of people but I, like a lot of people, will always look for the source. If it is someone I trust, a colleague, family member, friend then I am less likely to be worried, that doesn’t mean it’s safe as the sender may have unwittingly sent a bogus email on to me.

One of my friends sent me a response to my email asking if I’d sent her spam! Clearly I took this personally and started to review our friendship immediately.

Beyond this, I don’t have the ability to look at an email or text ‘technically’ to assess authenticity, so if in doubt I delete. So far so good for me, but I know the baddies will improve their stealth tactics so we need to be on our guard. It may mean that on odd occasions I may go without my morning toast by avoiding calls, but it’s a small price to pay.

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