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Beware of being caught in internet ‘phishing’ scams

For some, going fishing doesn’t require a pole, and the “net” is the internet.

“Phishing” scams are on the rise.

Tuesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel drew attention to an urgent alert issued by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs that warns residents to beware of phishing emails sent by scammers impersonating LARA officials, attempting to obtain their personal information.

Michigan licensees refers to anyone who holds a professional license issued by LARA, such as those under the Public Health Code, the Occupational Code and other relevant statutes.

Michigan licensees have reported receiving fraudulent emails similar to the example linked here with numerous grammatical errors.

“Scammers will stop at nothing to cheat someone out of their personal information and hard-earned money,” Nessel said. “My office provides a library of resources for Michiganders to ensure they know how to spot and stop attempts to rob them of their personal information. We all must look for warning signs such as misspelled words, unrecognizable email addresses and suspicious links in the emails we receive.”

A library of consumer alerts created by the Department’s Consumer Protection Team is available online.

Nessel warns consumers that —

— Misspelled words or poor grammar in the subject line or body of the email are red flags identifying a scam.

— The name listed on the “from” line is not always an indication of who sent the email. Pay close attention to the actual email address. If that email address doesn’t match up with what you know to be correct or is abnormally long, it’s likely a phishing scam.

— Always be cautious of any unsolicited requests for any personal information. LARA will not contact you directly asking for personal information.

— Do not respond to, or open hyperlinks in email or text messages about validating your personal data.

Remember: Do not reply to any suspicious emails and never provide personal information. If personal information is compromised, it may be used to commit identity theft or in other fraud schemes.

More details on how Michiganders can protect their personal information are available on the Consumer Protection Team’s webpage.

Then, there is “catfishing”: romance scams in which gullible but well-meaning people are bilked for money.

And according to one recent study, the state of Michigan ranked 11th in the nation in 2019 in the numbers of victims of so-called romance scams, the Mining Journal wrote in a recent editorial.

“This is an emotional, complex crime,” Christine Beining, an FBI agent based in Tampa, Florida, told The Atlantic for a story on the issue. “If you don’t understand what goes into it — the manipulation, the brainwashing, the gaslighting — it’s easy to think, ‘That’s stupid, what were you thinking?'”

According to the SocialCatfish.com study, Americans lost $201 million to romance scammers in 2019, up more than 40 percent from the previous year.

Remarkably, Nigerian romance scams appear to be the most prevalent. Here’s an informal list of ways to avoid becoming a victim:

— Never give money: Do not give anyone you meet online money, no matter the reason.

— Again, do not provide personal information: Scammers can use basic information to commit identity fraud, get access to your banks and steal your money.

— Take things slow: If you like someone online, do not let them rush you. Nigerian romance scammers will be pushy about falling in love right away. If that is the case, know something is not right.

— Meet or video chat: Do not form a relationship with someone who will not video chat with you or meet you in person.

Sounds like common sense? It is, yet untold numbers of people are victimized by these scammers each year.

Be smart. Don’t let it happen to you.

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