Beware of strange e-mails
ADA offers tips for avoiding financial—phishing—scams
An e-mail inbox can be dangerous to navigate for dentists as well as the general public.
Along with that e-mail from a friend saying hello, the forward from a co-worker and the monthly coupon from your favorite discount store could be something more sinister. There are a number of e-mail scams floating around in cyberspace, and it’s important dentists be cautious and aware of some red flags before they become involved in something they wish they hadn’t.
The American Dental Association is aware of realistic looking, but fake, e-mails that appear to be from banks or other financial institutions floating around cyberspace.
The e-mails are attempts from criminals to trick people into providing personal or financial information—a technique known as phishing.
The ADA has a number of tips for dentists on how to avoid getting hooked by a phishing scam. A new member publication titled Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft: Steps You Can Take When Your Social Security Number Has Been Compromised, is also available on the Dental Practice Hub in the resource section (www.dentalpracticehub.ada.org).
- If you get an e-mail or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply. Legitimate companies don’t ask for this information via e-mail as it’s not a secure method for transmitting personal information.
Also, don’t click on the link in the message or copy and paste it into your Web browser. Phishers can make links look like they go to one place but actually send you to a different website. Look for indicators that the site is secure, like a lock icon on the browser’s status bar or a Web address that begins “https” (the “s” stands for secure).
- Be cautious about opening any attachments or downloading files from e-mails you receive unless you were expecting them. Unsolicited files, even from people you trust, can contain viruses or other software that can weaken your computer’s security.
- If you gave some personal information to a phisher, contact the financial institutions you use. They may advise you to change your account, disable online banking or take other steps.
- Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized charges. If your statement is late by more than a couple days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances.
- If you believe you’ve been scammed, file your complaint at www.ftc.gov and visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft website at www.consumer.gov/idtheft. Victims of phishing can become victims of identify theft, and while it’s not something you can entirely control, you can take some steps to minimize your risk. If an identity thief is opening credit accounts in your name, these new accounts are likely to show up on your credit report. You may catch an incident early if you order a free copy of your credit report periodically from any of the three major credit bureaus. See www.annualcreditreport.com for details on ordering.
- Forward spam that is phishing for information to firstname.lastname@example.org and to the company, bank or organization impersonated in the e-mail. Most organizations have information on their websites about where to report problems. You may also report phishing e-mail to email@example.com. The Anti-Phishing Working Group uses these reports to fight phishing.
- Learn about other ways to protect yourself from online scams by visiting http://onguardonline.gov/index.html.