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Security & privacy

‘Shark Tank’ host scammed out of nearly $400,000 – don’t make the same mistake

When’s the last time you received a phishing email? Five minutes ago? Five seconds ago? At this point, it feels like there’s at least one phishing email in your inbox every time you look.

The criminals behind these attacks have zero scruples, always jumping on the latest trends and viral news stories like the coronavirus. Tap or click here to see how to avoid being tricked by coronavirus scams.

The list of cybercrime victims is ever-growing. Most of the time we don’t know who the victims are, but this time we do. A popular “Shark Tank” judge was just scammed out of nearly $400,000.

Horrifying story with a happy ending

Earlier this week, “Shark Tank” judge Barbara Corcoran said she lost more than $380,000 when one of her employees fell for an elaborate phishing scam.

She told People, “I lost the $388,700 as a result of a fake email chain sent to my company. It was an invoice supposedly sent by my assistant to my bookkeeper approving the payment for a real estate renovation. There was no reason to be suspicious as I invest in a lot of real estate.”

Emails went back and forth between her bookkeeper and the imposter for a while, until the fake assistant convinced her to send payments by wire transfer.

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The mistake wasn’t caught until her bookkeeper sent a follow-up message to Corcoran’s actual assistant. That’s when they realized they had been scammed.

After looking at the original emails closely, they noticed the imposter had tweaked the real assistant’s email address. It was close enough to the real address that the bookkeeper didn’t think twice about it — until it was too late, of course.

This wound up being just another phishing scam that was handled by a persuasive scammer. Spoofing the real assistant’s email address was the key to making this scam a success.

But we have some good news related to this nightmare.

TMZ reported Corcoran was able to get her money back, something most people never get. Corcoran said a German bank she does business with was able to help get it back after only a few days.

Bank officials heard about the incident and froze the account before the money was forwarded to the scammers’ account in Asia. Finally, a win for the good guys.

Don’t be reeled into a phishing attack

Knowledge is power when it comes to defeating a phishing scam. Taking the time to know what to watch for and how to react when you spot one is key.

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Here are some simple rules to follow that will help keep you from getting hooked into a phishing scam.

Links can be trouble

The most important thing to remember is to be careful with the links you receive in unsolicited emails and text messages. If you click on a link or open PDF attachments in these types of messages, they could be malicious and lead you into a world of trouble.

If you need to conduct business with any company, especially your bank, make sure to type its web address directly into your browser. Also, don’t do an internet search looking for your bank’s phone number. Call the number found on the back of your credit or debit card so you know it’s legit.

Enable 2FA when available

If companies that you do business with offer two-factor authentication, take them up on it. 2FA just means you need two ways to prove who you are when logging into your account.

Instead of just needing a username and password, you’ll also need to enter a one-time code that you receive via text or from an authentication app like Google Authenticator. Tap or click here for more details on how 2FA works.

Safeguard your personal information

If you receive an unsolicited message asking for personal information or claiming you need to make a payment, don’t do it by replying to the message and always hesitate before wiring money.

This was especially true for the Corcoran scam. Replying to the spoofed email address was a critical mistake. If the bookkeeper would have started a new email with the actual address, instead of replying to the fake one, this wouldn’t have happened.

It’s also a good idea to make a call to the person you’re sending money to before you transfer it. Call them at a number you know is real and discuss the situation before sending a single cent.

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