Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Former FTC Commish Caught in Phishing Scam

scamsYou know Internet scams have become widespread when a member of the Federal Trade Commission – whose job is to protect consumers from cyber-crooks – admits getting burned by a scammer.

Attorney Julie Brill, who recently left the FTC for private practice, says she went public about her phishing experience in order to warn others.

“These are not the prince-from-Nigeria types of attacks of the past that we’re used to,” Brill said. “These are deeply sophisticated.”

Brill’s troubles began when she opened an email from a business contact and then clicked on what she thought was a Google attachment. She began entering personal information before realizing she had linked to a fake site.

Luckily, none of her data was compromised because safety measures were in place that alerted her to the risk in time.

Keep in mind Brill is a sharp and talented attorney. The Washington Post describes her as “a deft lawyer and a defender of consumers’ rights.” If she can get scammed, anyone can.

Five Common Phishing Scams

Here are some common cyber-traps, courtesy of Bullguard Security:

  1. Too-good-to-be-true offers on social media. Do you use Facebook or Pinterest? Beware of ads offering free gift certificates, deep discounts or other goodies – especially if you have to fill out an online survey to receive the giveaway. It’s probably a survey scam. The phisher’s goal is to obtain personal data, including bank info and credit card numbers. The fact that a trusted friend shared the offer doesn’t necessarily mean it’s legit. They could have simply taken the bait before passing it on to you.
  2. Phony job ads. Job seekers are a prime phishing target. Some of the ads appear to be legitimate. They have company logos and appropriate language, but when you click on the link you’re directed to a scam site.
  3. Fake alerts from banks. Banks never send warnings of credit card expirations by email or text. Nor do they typically ask you to update account information online.
  4. Charity scams. Cyber-crooks prey on natural disasters and global health issues. They lay their bait on social media and online forums.
  5. Fake e-cards. “Even companies have adopted the practice of sending e-cards to their customers to get closer to them,” writes Bullguard. “Not at all surprising is the fact that cybercrooks know just how to take advantage of the joy-spreading e-cards and breach your internet security. They send you legit-looking e-cards that once downloaded either direct you to a phishing site or install some kind of malicious software on your PC.”

Simple Steps to Stay Cyber-Safe

  • Install antivirus software on your computer and keep it up to date.
  • Thwart hackers by using a two-factor authentication process for accessing sensitive information. This requires you to enter login credentials as well as a special code sent to your phone or another device.
  • Verify the prospective employer or recruiter before responding to an online job ad.
  • List your CV only on reputable sites that have privacy policies.
  • Steer clear of unsolicited emails from your bank. Call the bank to confirm the validity of any questionable message.
  • Don’t make a charitable donation through a social media link. Go directly to the charity’s website. Even then, make sure the site is secure before disclosing financial data.

Remember: anyone can fall for a phishing scam – even FTC commissioners.


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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