Honor Society Foundation Scam Protection Tip #8: The Message Contains Some Kind of Threat
This is from the Honor Society published book called "How to Avoid the Top E-mail Scams" by Mike Moradian, written to help protect our member and student community from common online scams. To learn more about the book or to purchase a copy, click here.
Tip #8: The Message Contains Some Kind of Threat
You might be thinking: what phishers would also dare elicit a threat as they try to steal my information and money? You’d be surprised. Much like presenting you with a present gets you to act in some way, so does a potential threat. None of us like to “get into trouble.” We don’t want to be scolded, or possibly cause some kind of account dilemmas if we fail to sign up for a new package, provide up-to-date information, etc.
Phishers know this, which is why contrary to offering you a present, they will threaten to take away a present if you don’t do something immediately. This is an easy way to get you to pay attention to an email in your inbox, especially if the subject line reads something like this “Warning: account deactivation imminent unless we hear from you.” It’s hard to skip over that, right?
But think about it – when was the last time a company like Walmart sent you any kind of email that threatened you or used the word warning? Never because that’s not normal customer service policy. They want you to want to shop on their website, which is why they are always going to be polite and courteous to you. No account shutdown will ever be imminent. No threats will ever be emailed your way.
Still, even though we know that, we can’t help but get upset over emails promising some kind of threat.
Here are the most common types of threatening emails phishers send today:
- Account warning or suspension. If you get an email stating that your account is about to be suspended if you don’t do XYZ, that should be a red flag. Companies are normally going to send you 15 different emails telling you of an upcoming renewal before they terminate an account. In many cases, they would never terminate your account, because they would lose you as a client. The only thing that can get tricky is an account suspension email that could be possible through a site like etsy.com if you violate community standards. But in this case, still, there would be no sketchy link for you to click. It would simply state what happened, and request that you wait a 30-day period or call a provided number.
- Account termination imminent. Again, a company is going to tell you at least 15 times before an account is terminated. If your card expired and you are no longer paying the monthly premium, they are going to do everything they can before they have to terminate your account. They are going to be so annoying, in fact, that it will be hard to ignore. Therefore, any random “your account is being terminated” emails out of the blue should be a phishing indicator.
- Personal information was exposed through our site. Sometimes, companies are breached and information is exposed. It can happen. If this is the case, the company will let users know politely and require zero contact. They will not ask you to click on a link. They will brief you on the situation, what could have been exposed, and what you should do now. Generally, they will request that you change login information, your bank account password, etc. They will NOT request that you do anything with them or provide them with any amount of this information.
- Unauthorized login attempt. Companies do alert users if someone is trying to hack into your account, it’s true. They will not embed a sketchy link into the email to tell you this. They will alert you to the situation and ask you to reset your username and password. Do this independently of any link they send. Go to the site by typing it in and view your account without visiting it directly through a link. This is a hard one to spot, which is why it’s best if you go around the virus and simply type it in yourself.
No normal business pursues a threatening marketing tactic. That’s a quick way to ensure your doors are closed. Just remember that piece of common sense you might forget as a phishing email “guilts” you into an action you otherwise wouldn’t consider.
For more on how to protect yourself online, read tips from our published book below:
Intro: How to Avoid the Top E-mail Scams
Tip #1: Look for the Display Name
Tip #2: Do Not Click the Links
Tip #3: Scan for Spelling Errors
Tip #4: Look for Personal Information Requests
Tip #5: The Offer is Unrealistic
Tip #6: You Never Initiated the E-mail
Tip #7: The Email Requests You Send Money
Tip #8: The Message Contains Some Kind of Threat
Tip #9: The Email Claims to be From a Bank or Government Agency
Tip #10: Your Gut Tells You Something is Wrong
Extra Credit #1: Tips for Staying on Top of Phishers
Extra Credit #2: Knowing When It's a Real Email: 5 Tips