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Data breaches open door to new scams

Posted by Mitch Lipka  February 18, 2014 01:56 PM

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spam.jpgWhen it comes to scams, email is the most efficient form of delivery. It also can be the easiest place to spot a scam.

I’ve twice been offered, this week alone, the opportunity by high-ranking officials in Ghana and Nigeria to hold vast amounts of money for them in exchange for a piece of the action. Thankfully, after many years of such emails, the vast majority of consumers can recognize those scams without thought.

But I’ve also received what appeared to be a confirmation email from Delta Air Lines for a flight I did not book (they want you to click the embedded link) and a survey purporting to be from Target.

Those emails were not as obvious. The giveaway? Neither used my name. That’s a way to recognize all sorts of scams – from emails pretending to be from your bank to those that read as follows: “Dear Customer, Your E-mail account has exceeded its limit and needs to be verified...”

If you’re a customer, the company ought to know who you are. And that’s where the data breaches change the game.

Those breaches could allow scammers to know who you are, where you live, and with whom you do business. Every email that asks anything of you has to be looked at with a new level of suspicion.

So, continue to chuckle at ones that are riddled with typos and filled with broken English. But avoid clicking on links even in emails that look legitimate. If you get an email that appears to be from your bank or Target or the government and it tells you to follow a link, go to the established web page of that entity or call them at a number not provided by that email.

It might seem overly cautious, but identity thieves will try anything to get what they need from you – usually a Social Security number. Another tactic is to get you to download software that will steal information off your computer or just cause problems.

“Don’t click on links from emails, period,” said Paula Fleming, vice president of the Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont.

So, exercise skepticism and unless you’re sure of the source…Don’t Click.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at


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