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COLUMN: Information theft is growing

New ways keep surfacing to steal our information and new terms are being created to educate us.

Over the weekend the state’s attorney general office put out a press release because someone in its office received a PayPal scam email over the state email server.

The attorney general said three factors led him to believe it was the work of a foreign scam artist: the email indicating urgency, using grammatical errors and providing a link to follow to give personal information.

I’ve seen plenty of those PayPal hack attempts in my day in both work and personal email boxes. It seems like we have seen it all at this point, whether it is someone pretending they are from the bank or another financial institution or a popular retail outlet. Then, of course, there is the scam where someone hacks into your email, sends a note to all of your friends pretending to be you and says you are stuck in a foreign country and need money to live.

It pays to be suspicious of most things in email these days and be very careful with correspondence and personal information on the Internet.

These scams are generally called “phishing,” which is a term most of us have heard of at this point that means someone is attempting to get you to disclose personal data over the phone or computer.

But, an email from the Better Business Bureau of Mississippi last week alerted me to three new terms I actually hadn’t heard of, so I will share them with you here. “Smishing” means someone is trying to get information using deceptive text messages, and “vishing” refers to deceptive voicemails. You know, those random texts about a Caribbean vacation … And, apparently the BBB is seeing a significant hike in calls to its office regarding “farcing,” which is the use of social media to trick someone into providing personal information.

Turns out we now need to be super-duper careful on Facebook about accepting friend requests from anyone and actually check and see if that friend of a friend actually sent you a request. Once that stranger is your “friend,” he or she can see your popular vacation spots, figure out your daily routine, know who your friends and family are, whether you might live alone, what financial institutions you “like” and even your birthday.

This day and age, we all need to be cautious and stay alert of the scamming trends to not become a victim.

Stephanie Rebman is editor of the Oxford EAGLE. Contact her at stephanie.rebman@oxfordeagle.com.