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Published On: June 22, 2019 by Blake Schwank

Today’s online scammers are getting smarter by the minute, and that makes it harder than ever for consumers to be sure that they’re safe online. Online bill payment services are extremely convenient, allowing you to log into your account and enter your credit card number or bank account information and pay bills immediately. However, there is a dark side to this practice that requires you to pay attention a little more closely when you’re paying bills online. See some of the latest ways that cybercriminals are getting creative to get you to pass over your personal financial information.

Online Fraud is on the Rise

Let’s face it: there are people everywhere who are not looking out for your best interests. From the used car salesperson who is trying to increase the size of their sale to online scammers who are trying to skim your credit card, it’s a tough world out there for consumers. Online fraud instances have been rising dramatically in recent years, much of that driven by phishing, ransomware and other forms of email-based malware. This is an incredibly potent tool for cybercriminals because emails are perceived by many people to be a secure and trusted method of communication. Unfortunately, thieves are able to take advantage of consumers by mimicking our trusted contacts — using email domains that are one character away from someone that we communicate with on a regular basis. For instance, if you receive an email from @AMAZ0N.com, are you likely to notice that the “O” is actually a zero? Probably not, especially if you’re skimming through your emails at warp speed. Scammers are taking advantage of our inattention to detail to garner specific financial and personal information or to infect our devices with malicious viruses.

What to Watch for When Paying Bills Online

Just as when you’re receiving an email, paying a bill online is a time to be extremely wary. This is especially true if you’re paying a new bill online for the first time, or responding to an email that requests you to click a link to pay your bill online. Be hyper-aware of any type of email or message that directs you to click a link to pay; instead, navigate directly to the provided URL so you can be sure you’re not being redirected to a different site behind the scenes. Always check to ensure that the website has a security certificate in place. If you receive a security warning from your browser — it’s best to hop off of that site as soon as possible. Cybercriminals are becoming extremely creative with their web design skills and can make their fraudulent website look exactly like a trusted vendor or retailer.

Staying safe online can be a challenge, but all it takes is a few extra seconds to fully vet a new website before you enter your financial information to pay a bill. When in doubt, call the retailer or vendor directly to confirm that any email you received is legitimate and that the bill payment site is accurate. One final thing to consider: if you’ve made it to a website that looks legitimate but they are suddenly asking a bunch of personal questions, it’s time to bail! This is a trick that scammers use to steal more and more information about your identity. Stay safe online!

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