Don’t Panic! Identifying Social Engineering Scams Before It’s Too Late.

by Bill MacLennan, CEO of Your Computer Hero

Last week I got a call from “Verizon” stating that there was a problem with my account and my service would be disrupted if I did not take action right away.  The automated voice invited me to simply “Push 1” to be connected to a representative to take care of the issue.   I have seen more people then I care to count get taken advantage of in this type of situation and I know exactly what happens next.   A friendly, legitimate sounding, voice will ask for my Verizon account number and answer my questions about the problem, furthering trust and credibility then WHAMMO!-“I will need  is a credit card to secure this and make sure there is no interruption in your cell phone service.”-This is how easy it is to be swindled out of sensitive credit card information by a social engineering scam.

Social Engineering is the use of deception to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential or personal information that may be used for fraudulent purposes.

Simply planning ahead will go a long way in  helping you identify and respond appropriately to a social engineering scam.  Here are  a couple of  things to consider:

Don’t Panic! These types of scams are designed to push your panic button, so you aren’t thinking clearly.  Disruption in cell service (such as Verizon) or any other service related to running a business can easily throw many business owners over the top.  This is no secret to scammers!  If you are in panic mode-pause, stay calm and keep a logical head.

Hang Up the Phone and Verify!  If a call like this sounds legitimate enough that you are tempted to divulge sensitive information on the spot, it only takes a few minutes to hang up and verify the claim with a second source.  In the Verizon example above, I logged into my Verizon account with my own password and found that there was no problem at all.  There is always a way to verify the legitimacy of a call like this with your own information.  Furthermore, legitimate companies are aware that many scams develop around their brand name.  So, they steer clear of practices that make customers uneasy, like making automated  robocalls when there is a problem.

We have been providing computer repair and IT services to small businesses in the Twin Cities since 2004 and it seems like the variety and sophistication of scams increases by the day.  We field many calls each month from clients who wonder about different scams they have come across.  Don’t hesitate to call us if you need an opinion on a suspicious phone call or email-we will be happy to offer you logical steps to verify the legitimacy of any call or email that produces panic or requests sensitive information.