She’s one of the most famous faces on TV and in the business world. To entrepreneurs, she’s a dream investor. But to scammers, she was a target. Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran recently admitted that she was robbed of almost half a million dollars in an email scam.
The scam involved an elaborate system of fake email accounts, strategic thinking, and brazen theft. The thieves first created an email account that matched—almost—the email address of Corcoran’s assistant, except for one letter. They then created an invoice for seemingly routine renovation expenses and sent it from the fake assistant’s account to Corcoran’s bookkeeper. The bookkeeper wired $388,700 to the thieves’ account and took off without a trace.
Yes, anyone can be a target.
The lesson here? You don’t have to be stupid to get suckered. Even the savviest among us are vulnerable to modern robbery. Phishing is one of the most common scams today, but it’s not the only type. Spam calls asking for social security numbers, even threatening imprisonment, have been escalating recently. And if an offer sounds too good to be true (like a free cruise without explanation, or a royal prince who wants to give you money in exchange for your banking details), the old adage is probably true: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
No checklist is foolproof, but a few best practices can go a long way toward protecting your identity, guarding your money, and keeping you safe from scammers. Here are a few of the best tips collected from around the web:
1. Always verify the sender’s email address. Sure, the name in “sent” looks real, but is the email address valid? Double-check the email address itself, letter by letter, if money or account details are on the line.
2. Don’t click through emails to sign into accounts. Got an email asking you to verify something in your account? Go to the website directly to sign in, rather than clicking on a link.
3. When in doubt, forward the email to phishing experts. Every bank and most corporate brands have specific departments who stand ready to verify or flag suspicious emails. Got a fishy email? Ask the company allegedly sending it to verify.
Our kids are especially vulnerable to certain types of scams. We filmed an entire Biz Kid$ episode around the topic. Its title? Scam-o-Rama.