Ask Sabiha: A Weekly Column on How to Protect Yourself against Cyber Villains
Hi, my name is Sabiha and I am a student at Roosevelt just like you. I am working with Roosevelt’s technology department in Cyber Security. I am also a junior in the cyber security program. You can ask me about cyber security, phishing emails, emailing scams, and anything that has you worried about your own data security!
So, let’s get to it…
During the holiday break, students commonly travel to go home or for vacation. To find cheap tickets you might resort to using less trustworthy sources. Sometimes the risk is worth it, but most of the times it is not.
Free tickets offered through emails, contests, or by mail are scams! If you ever receive a letter claiming you won a ticket through a contest you don’t remember entering, ignore it! In order to win a contest, you need to enter it. Another trap would be asking you to participate in a contest to win tickets. The catch here is that they will ask you to pay to enter and/or verify your identity using banking information. DON’T DO IT!
Social media posts promoting a giveaway may make you believe it to be true but be wary – it may be a scam. These giveaway posts shared and liked by your friends are part of the scammer’s “like” farming scheme to gain an audience and credibility to promote more scams on their social media page. “Like” farming is when giveaway participants are required to share and like a post in order to enter a contest or unlock their reward. These scammers rely on you trusting your friend and what they “like” to bait you into ultimately giving away personal identifiable information in hopes of winning free airplane tickets and travel packages.
Another scam is the “cancelled ticket invoice.” Whether you have or have not booked an airline ticket, you may receive a cancelled ticket invoice. If you have not purchased any tickets, ignore the email and delete it. If you have booked a ticket and have concerns that the invoice could be real, go directly to the airline website to verify the flight and ticket status. Avoid clicking on any links or attachments in the email you receive which will lead you to unsecured sites or infect your device with malware.
Here’s how to decode the scam in the images above:
- There is no blue checkmark by the company name, noting that the page is not verified by Facebook. See what a legitimate business Facebook page looks like below.
- The giveaway post contains poor grammar and incorrect capitalization.
- The social page lacks any official contact information such as a link to their official website.
- The post has no legal disclaimers. For any official giveaways a business would always let you know about terms and conditions or legal requirements that may apply.
Here’s how to decode the legitimacy of the above Facebook account:
- The page is verified by Facebook by the blue checkmark next the name. Airline companies, like all other businesses on social media, are verified to be legitimate and this is confirmed by a blue checkmark attached to their name.
- The social page contains official contact information such as a link to their official website.
- For all official giveaways, a business would always let you know about terms and conditions or legal requirements that may apply.
What have we learned here? The basic rule of thumb is that airlines do not giveaway free tickets in contests. If you are still unsure, verify that the giveaway is on a legitimate business page. Ignore any offers to enter a contest by paying fees or having to verify your identity with bank details. Be cautious with cancelled or changed ticket invoices. If you do become a victim of fraudulent traveling scams, report them to BBB.com and the FTC along with filing a complaint on the site you encountered the scam.