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How to Spot Phishing Emails From ‘Trusted’ Businesses

Photo credit: iStock/weerapatkiatdumrong

Year-round, all kinds of phishing attempts lurk in your inbox — from promises of massive wealth from self-described Nigerian princes (or their representatives) to threats of arrest or loss of benefits from supposed employees of government agencies that, in reality, never correspond via email.

But with the upcoming holiday shopping season — predicted to generate up to $682 billion in sales, including a record $107 billion in online purchases (14 percent higher than last year) — prepare for some of the most convincing cons angling for personal and financial information that could lead to identity theft.

These ploys supposedly come from companies you know, trust and likely rely on, especially this season. They include online retailers, credit card companies, PayPal, banks, airlines and delivery services like FedEx and UPS. Some bogus emails ask for an “order confirmation.” Others claim a problem — say, your account was frozen, requires an update or verification, or there’s a shipping or delivery snafu. Others tout coupons, unbelievable discounts or freebies ranging from expensive iPhones to gift cards (often promised for completing a customer survey that could provide identity thieves and sleazy marketers with sensitive information best not shared).

All seek the same goal: to get you to reveal sensitive information, such as personal details, log-in credentials, account and credit card numbers. They may want you to click on an imbedded link or attachment that harbors computer-infecting malware. Here’s how to distinguish the bona fide from the bogus (even after the holiday shopping season):


For information about other scams, sign up for the 
Fraud Watch Network. You’ll receive free email alerts with tips and resources to help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud. Keep tabs on scams and law enforcement alerts in your area at our Scam-Tracking Map.

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