I've noticed a new breed of phishing scammers lately. They've gotten more sophisticated in their attempts to trick, cajole, and outright scare you into falling into their trap. The emails are written by someone fluent in English and are even doing a pretty good job of mimicking the company they are pretending to be.
The scammers of old seem to have fallen away, those all too predictable and obvious pathetic attempts with poorly spelled words, atrocious grammar errors, and the glaring obvious that they know very little of the English language and are completely oblivious or just don't care.
As published authors we have to put ourselves out there, always marketing and schmoozing online like the girl at the young teen dance who so desperately wants to be asked to dance, but no one seems to notice her in the corner behind all the other girls desperate to be asked to dance.
The problem with making yourself visible to as many others as possible in the hopes that just one or two might actually buy your book, is that you are also making yourself visible to the spammers, phishers, and hackers.
Apparently a phisherman of this newer breed noticed me on Amazon. I suddenly am getting all these urgent messages that my Amazon account is in dire peril.
How do I know it phishing? It's not that hard to figure out, really. Just be smart and stop and think before you panic and click that link or give any information. And when in doubt, just back out. Stand up and take a step back and close that email. Picking up a phone to call customer service (if they have one!) will sort it all out. If they have no real people working for them, then go to the actual legitimate website and contact them with all the details. They will no doubt tell you that you just got phished.
Keys and tips to protect yourself from phishing:
1. Don't make your email public. Really, how many of your "fans" need to email you? There are safer ways to do set that up. Do you think Stephen King put out his private email to the public? Not a creepy clown down the sewer chance! Of course, that's sometimes easier said than done whenever media site defaults to publishing your email.
2. Use multiple email accounts. Use a spam email for social networking sites where you know you are likely to get spammed by the site or phishing scams. Never use the same email that you use for banking and other important business.
3. If the email is asking for personal information, bank account or credit information, passwords, or for you click a link to log in securely - IT'S A PHISHING SCAM! As soon as you log in through their link they have your username and password, giving them full access to your account.
4. It doesn't matter what the account is: your bank, Facebook, Paypal, Amazon, etc they will never contact you asking for you to click a link and provide information that gives access to your account. They will instead direct you to visit their legitimate site to access your account securely or contact them.
5. Check the IP or senders email. Big red flag: all the Amazon's calling and your account is in grave danger and has been shut down emails are coming from "firstname.lastname@example.org". Now here's the dead giveaway: the sender's email shows up as "email@example.com". But that is almost Amazon you say? Yes, but do you not think a multi billion-dollar corporation would get that right?
6. Did it even come to the right email address? I've had plenty of warnings that my bank accounts are in imminent danger. Usually the first giveaway is that it's a bank I don't have an account with, or sent to the wrong email.
The phishermen may have gotten smarter and more sophisticated, but common sense is pretty smart and sophisticated too.