How can you tell if that message is a scam/phishing message? Here are some tips:
Spelling mistakes in the URL - don't click!
Look carefully at the picture above with screenshots of actual text messages I've received - that link that is supposedly from Israel Post is from "Israeilpost.com" - which is NOT the Israel Post URL!
Don't trust short links or unofficial-looking links:
Always go through official websites when you need customer service, tech support, or to authorize changes to your account. This applies to your bank, credit cards, postal services, and even websites you shop on. Look in the picture above - at least one link is "tinyurl" link, another is a "rebrand.ly" link. Big Red Flag.
Verify links first:
Legitimate websites use the url you know for that site. The post office does not send out short links! Neither does your bank. When in doubt, go directly to the website (or app) you think the message came from, and log in on your own. A legitimate request will show up when you log in. If you got a text message telling you to pay a customs fee, but you can't see the fee and information about it when you track your package, it's a scam. Same goes for resetting your bank account password. If you log in to your account and there's no message there, the text/email you got was almost certainly a scam!
Urgent messages should make you wary:
Scammers will often try to get you to act quickly. They'll tell you that you must pay within X number of hours, or that your account will be closed in X amount of time if you don't act quickly. If they manage to make you feel panicked, you're more likely to give out sensitive information. So always take the time to double and triple check before you click on that link or agree to reset your account. If the message seems out of the blue AND urgent, be wary! See the picture above - one of the messages says that your package will be returned to sender if you don't pay! If you really owe taxes, this won't be the way you get this message.
If someone calls you and urges you to pay a fee over the phone with your credit card, even if they seem to know who you are, don't pay! Call the number you have for the contact person you work with at that company (it's often an insurance scam, so call your insurance agent, or whichever company they claim to be from) and speak with them directly so you know you're speaking to a legitimate person and not a scammer.
Phone numbers and voices can be cloned. If your friend is truly overseas and stuck, chances are they won't be calling you. If you're concerned about a friend overseas and you can't reach them when you call them, you can get in touch with the embassy in that country or a trusted contact there, who can check on your friend. DON'T WIRE MONEY because of a phone call. Always find a way to verify the person is who you think they are before you agree to send any money! It's really truly rare that any request for you to urgently wire money is actually legit. So my bottom line is BE WARY!
Scammers are theives. They prey on people in whatever way they think they'll get you to part with your money or your sensitive information! That doesn't mean you can't still help a friend in need, or give tzedaka! Just be sure to do this in a way that you're sure your money will get where you intend it to go.
Hope you found this helpful! I'd love to hear from you! Be sure to join my Facebook group and we can be in touch there!