Maine Emergency Management Agency Warns of Olympics Cyber-Scams
With the Summer Olympics upon us in Rio de Janeiro August 5th through 21st, the Maine Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security are warning of lottery and sweepstakes cyber-scams associated with the Games.
The Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign is a national public awareness campaign developed by the The Anti-Phishing Working Group and the National Cyber Security Alliance that's aimed at increasing the understanding of cyber threats and empowering the American public to be safer and more secure online.
MEMA says if you unexpectedly receive an email telling you that you've won a prize, lottery, or sweepstakes - in this case, perhaps free tickets to the Olympics games - it may be an online scam. The person sending the email may seem excited for you to collect your winnings. But, if they then tell you there is a fee or tax to claim the prize and request your credit card or bank account information, it’s likely a trick.
The agency says it's always smart to be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately, offer something that sounds too good to be true, or ask for personal information.
Scammers use emails to collect personal and financial information or infect your machine with malware and viruses. Cybercriminals use legitimate-looking emails that encourage people to click on a link or open an attachment. The email they send can look like it is from an authentic, Olympics-related organization or legitimate retailer.
How to protect yourself: When in doubt, throw it out. Links in email and online posts are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious – even if you know the source – it’s best to delete or, if appropriate, mark it as “junk email.” Contact the company directly (via phone) to check the email’s legitimacy.
Regardless of if you are physically at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro or not, scammers will try to take advantage and sell you fake merchandise and tickets online.
How to protect yourself: Shop only at reputable online retailers, ideally only the official Olympics website. Look for the padlock symbol or for URLs that start with “https” or “shttp.” For auction websites, be sure to check the sellers’ reviews. Also, be sure to always pay for online purchases with a credit card, which offers greater protection than a debit card.
“You’ve Won” Scams
If you unexpectedly receive an email telling you that you have won a prize, lottery, or sweepstakes (for example, free tickets to the Olympics games), it may be an online scam. Though the person seems excited for you to collect your winnings, if they then tell you there is a fee or tax to claim the prize and request your credit card or bank account information, it’s likely a trick.
How to protect yourself: Think before you act. Be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately, offer something that sounds too good to be true, or ask for personal information.
Consumers can report suspected scams to the Anti-Phishing Working Group. The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team also collects phishing email messages and website locations to help people avoid becoming victims of phishing scams.
To report suspected phishing attempts to the Department of Homeland Security, visit their scams reporting page. The National Cyber Security Alliance’s Spam and Phishing page has more information on how to protect yourself against these attacks.