CBIZ INNKEEPERS INSURANCE BLOG

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Hayden Ward
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6 Tell-Tale Signs of Phishing for Innkeepers

How to avoid phishing scams for innkeepers

Phishing attacks are constantly evolving in order to capitalize on our information. Recently, we’ve seen an uptick of scammers sending phishing emails – even Zoom meetings - about the COVID-19 vaccine. Phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending emails claiming to be from reputable companies to induce individuals to reveal personal information. As hackers get better and better at their game, it’s important to know how to spot a suspicious email to help your Bed & Breakfast business avoid a cyber breach.

The following are tell-tale signs of phishing attempts that Inn owners need to know:

1. Suspicious Sender Address

One of the easiest signs to spot a phishing attempt is a fake sender address. However, they can sometimes appear legitimate because many hackers use generic email domains like yahoo.com or gmail.com. Spoofing, the art of using lookalike and cousin domains, can also be a warning sign that this is a phishing attempt. Attackers will purchase email domains with similar names and extensions such as: .biz, .net, or .co. Make sure to inspect the from address to determine if it has a letter or symbol out of place. This is a good indication it is bogus.

2. Generic Salutation and Sign-Off

Another strong sign of a phishing attempt is when the message content addresses the email receiver as a generic person or business rather than an individual. Emails with generic salutations will typically begin “Dear Customer” or “Dear Mrs.” Many of these emails will sign off with a department name or customer service title instead of the sender’s real name and contact information.

3. Subject Lines that Raise Concern

Scare tactics are used by email phishers with the intention that the reader will click into the mail and download or click into any websites. These crafty emails are often designed around updates that are required for your computer (immediately) or a payment that urgently needs to be made. Another common example of this is, “Your password has expired.” 

Examine the subject line for spelling errors and poor grammar. These are signs it could be a scam. Be wary of emails asking for financial information. Never share personal or financial information via email or an unsecure site.

4. Fake File Attachments

A well-thought-out phishing attempt can look completely normal but have odd attachments within the email. These attachments may appear like to be a PDF file or Word document, but they are really just an image with a hidden URL. These can redirect you to fake login screens, fake meeting invitations, or most recently Zoom login screens.

5. Use of URL Shorteners

Phishing hackers will sometimes disguise rogue URLs by using URL shorteners. Before clicking on the link, hover over it and look for misspellings as well as how the URL ends.  An “.ru” on the end means the site was created in Russia; “.br” means Brazil. Think before you click on links or open attachments as you could download malware.

6. Social Engineering Red Flags

With many different communication mediums, cyber thieves do not just stop at email phishing. They have been known to lure in victims on social media, telephone, or SMS/text. Always be on the watch for a potential scammer.

If It Feels Off, Don’t Open It!

A phishing message will always strive to look like a legitimate message from an organization or individual. The same fonts, logos, and branding colors are used in these emails to fool people. They also exploit basic human instincts by crafting phishing messages that play on a victim’s emotions.

Just remember that when you click into these messages or URLs, you could be stuck with some kind of malware that could take over your devices for a long time. Furthermore, they could learn important information about you, such as your banking information or key business information about your Bed & Breakfast.

If you feel like you have been involved in a phishing scam, received fraudulent charges, or become a victim of identity theft, please refer to the Federal Trade Commission for more information.

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