Phishing: It’s Not Just an Internet Problem Anymore

By Dylan Donley, Student Intern Fall 2013

While it may surprise you that phishing has nothing to do with either sitting on a boat in the lake, with rods, tackle boxes, and bait, or rocking out to a very popular jam band, phishing is generally defined as online scams that frequently use unsolicited messages purporting to originate from legitimate organizations, particularly banking and finance services such as brokerage firms, to deceive victims infishing hook clip art microsoftto disclosing their financial and/or personal identity information.

Phishers, who have traditionally used spam emails to obtain sensitive information from unsuspecting individuals, have recently taken to a much older method of communication for their scams, one which many people would believe is not as susceptible to scams:  the telephone.  FINRA has recently received reports that phishers are posing as employees of at least one well-known brokerage firm to obtain personal information using phone calls in order to defraud individuals and lure them into providing personal and financial information.

Essentially, phishers make false or exaggerated statements or claims with the intent to deceive people into giving up something of value or some right that they hold.  In the context of phone call phishing, the thing of value is generally the recipient’s personal information, financial account information, or actual financial assets.  Phishers and scammers who contact you via phone (or any type of continued communication) often work to build a relationship with you to earn your trust in order to get your personal and financial information.

Examples of phishing scams generally involve emails, text messages or phone calls that falsely claim to be from brokerage firms, banks, credit card companies, Internet auction sites, electronic payment services or some other service that a person uses.

The Newest Phishing Trend:  Telephone Investment Scams

Specifically, in the newest surge of phishing scams, FINRA has reported that phishers have been cold-calling potential victims, posing as employees of at least one well-known brokerage firm.  People who have reported such calls have even included actual customers of the legitimate brokerage firms.

The phishers claim to offer information about certificates of deposit (CDs), allegedly yielding well above “the best rates in the market.”  As part of the conversation, the phishers will say that their supervisor will follow up with more details about the CDs, and will sometimes send potential victims applications and forms to transfer funds in an effort to collect additional information.  With this information, the phishers may attempt to steal the recipient’s identity or money from his or her financial accounts.

Look to my next blog post for the anatomy of a phishing scheme.