‘I’ ON CULTURE
These days, it seems everyone wants to fool us. Unfortunately, technology has given them many weapons. One of the most dangerous is called “phishing.” People have lost a lot of money because of this kind of computer fraud.
I could have been a victim. Last week, I got an emergency text from Wells Fargo, my bank, telling me that unless I contacted them immediately, my checking account would be locked up. Since I have been banking with them for a quarter of a century without problems, and I know I have money in the account, I ignored the text. I got two more of them, each claiming more urgency and a link to respond. I went to the bank and, as expected, was told that the bank hadn’t sent it. “Watch out for a text with a 410 area code,” I was told. “That’s going around.”
The bank rep told me that he knew of a woman who got scared, answered the text and was sent to a link that asked for all sorts of information, including her Social Security number, her bank account login name and her password — “all to be checked.” The next day, she found out her account had been drained. She lost thousands of dollars. In some cases, it does not even require giving information. Simply going in, or opening an attachment, or going to another link, can open up either your computer or phone to someone else.
Whenever you get a message that there is trouble and you need to hit a link to get more information, don’t click the link and get out of the message! Contact whoever is presumably having a problem separately. I once had something like that from Amazon. I got out, went on Amazon directly, not using that link and changed my password. That is what you need to do.
Phishing can be dangerous for you. Be very careful and watch out for warnings that want immediate attention. You can report the fraud, but keep in mind that a lot of this comes from overseas.
Another annoyance, not as dangerous but still a pain, is “spoofing.” Have you noticed that you are getting phone calls from numbers almost the same as yours? Then when you answer, you get robocalls wanting you to buy something or get a special gift. Most of the callers don’t list their names for Caller ID. But since the number has the first three digits of my phone, I figure it might be a neighbor. One time, I actually got a call from someone whose number was only one digit away from mine.
We all know that the “Do Not Call” list is partly fiction. Honorable companies obey the regulations, but many unscrupulous ones pay no attention. They know they will not face any real punishment. But if you keep getting a call from a number that starts off with, “This is about your credit card. Right now you are OK but we have a way you can save,” and you know that after a few months of good rates your interest will be in the ballpark of the average crooked bookie’s, you can simply block the calls. But when the number keeps shifting, you are simply inundated.
This is a step beyond the usual slimy practice, in that by changing numbers, the callers are quite aware that you don’t want to deal with them and want to get you to answer the call anyway. It is terribly annoying, and if they get someone who is a sucker, they’ll make money. I love getting calls telling me that I requested information from them and they are responding. Especially when they interrupt dinner.
This could be an easy fix, except that most of our politicians are more or less bought. There should be a law preventing robocalls from spoofing and requiring accurate caller ID information. Even better, have the phone companies devise a code so that if you press something, the robocallers have to pay you for your time. Just bill them and subtract that cost from your account. That would stop the calls very fast.
Modern technology is exposing us to financial and emotional threats. Perhaps Congress could stop throwing flames at the other political party and get together to do their job of protecting us.