Cyber criminals are constantly at work challenging you, the consumer, and the abilities of antivirus or antispam security software. To illustrate this point, the recently published Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) 2019 Internet Crime Report attributed $3.5 billion in losses to individuals and businesses because of malicious phishing activities.

“Phishing is when someone posing as a trusted source maliciously attempts to gain personal information from you,” says Logan Stiles, Network Administrator at GRM Networks. “This may be accomplished through sending you emails which is phishing, phone scams which is vishing and even smishing which is essentially a phishing attempt via text messaging.”

Over the next few months, GRM Networks’ eNewsletter plans to feature additional helpful information regarding cybersecurity and those malicious attempts that are on the rise.

“Cyber criminals are constantly evolving and becoming craftier in their attempts to solicit customer information,” says Stiles. “Although the methods and tools they use become more sophisticated, their intent has not changed – click the embedded link in their email or text message and unbeknownst to you, malware such as a virus, spyware, Trojan horse or rogue software is downloaded giving them access to your personal information.”

If you have an email account or mobile phone, no matter the address or number, you may have received phishing emails or smishing texts, says Stiles. “Unfortunately, as noted by recent announcements made by service providers and government agencies, there has been a global increase in malicious attempts during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Hitting close to home, GRM Networks’ customers have reported receiving an increase in phishing attempts. Some even include the GRM Networks logo and nondiscrimination statement, but in reality are not official communications.

Some examples of malicious attempts customers have reported receiving include (this list is not exhaustive):
• Requests to take some form of action because the account is going to be suspended
• Instructions to upgrade their email account by downloading an attachment
• An announcement that GRM Networks has merged with Yahoo to form a new company and users must accept new Terms of Service
• Requests to click a link and update information because of ‘security incidents online’
• A text message that GRM Networks has attempted to deliver a package, click the links to complete a survey and win a new Apple iPhone 11
• A phone call, from someone claiming to be from GRM Networks, following up on a phishing email that was sent

“Cyber criminals are constantly trying to entice their recipients with gifts, free money or offers too good to be true,” says Stiles. “While they diligently try to get your confidential information, you too must diligently guard your personal information and be extremely skeptical of communications you receive as it is becoming more and more difficult to distinguish between legitimate and malicious communications.”

Stiles says malicious communications may contain these identifying characteristics:
• Misspelled words in the text
• Non-personalized salutations
• Threatening language
• Tempting offers
• Instructions to click links
• Instructions to provide personal information
• Requests for immediate action or services will be terminated
• Attachments for review

Cyber criminals communicate to unsuspecting recipients posing as other companies, not just GRM Networks. If you suspect you have received malicious communications, Stiles offers these tips:
• Do not open the text or email if the sender is not familiar.
• Do not click any links in the text or email.
• When in doubt, reach out to the sender or caller through a trusted method such as their website or phone number on record.
• Never respond to the sender of a suspicious message.
• Move the phishing email to your email’s ‘spam’ or ‘junk’ folder. Steps to do this will vary depending on your email provider. Directions for customers using the GRM Networks’ platform are found at www.grm.net/wp-content/uploads/5-Tips-Junk-Folder-and-Spam-v2.pdf.

“Be a skeptic,” says Stiles. “Put on your investigative hat, do your due diligence and ask questions and verify when in doubt.”

GRM Networks customers may also contact the 24/7 Helpdesk at 800-721-2577 with questions. Useful information may also be found at www.grm.net/cybersecurity. These trusted sites also provide helpful tips:
• www.consumer.ftc.gov
• www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/on-the-internet
• www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/news/cnwin16/phishing.html
• www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpaLmeHTp3I What is Phishing and How do I Protect Myself AARP Online Learning Videos