Beware the Smiling Emoji
Who among us hasn’t enjoyed enhancing a text or an email with a wink, a nod, or even a hat. These icons are adorable. They take the place of words, save on character space, and provide a little emotional intent behind your words. And, for the most part, emojis are harmless. But we wouldn’t be talking about emojis in this newsletter if there wasn’t a more sinister aspect to them.
“Emojis have become the ‘bait-of-choice for scammers,” says the Identity Theft Resource Center. Scammers fill up emails, texts, Facebook posts, Match.com conversations with them to make the person seem more friendly, lighthearted and approachable. The more friendly and approachable a text, even from a stranger, then, obviously, the more truthful, honest and safe the person. Right? Wrong! Remember, scammers are professionals. They will pose as most anything and say anything to capture your trust and get you off guard.
Additionally, if you’ve downloaded an emoji keyboard from an unapproved source, you may have downloaded viruses, malware or a way for hackers to mine your data.
WHAT TO DO?
First, remember that scammers can easily pose as a friend, or someone you’d like to connect with or by spoofing an existing account of someone you already know. Check to make sure you are connecting with the person you know. Be wary about accepting friend requests. If you receive a friend request from someone you are already connected to, reach out to that person directly and see if they were hacked. And, always practice sound judgement. If a new friend is overly friendly early in the relationship, be open, but wary.
Second, if you are downloading emoji keyboards, make sure the app is approved and vetted. And always remember, if you receive an unfamiliar message, don’t click on the link. Exit out of the program and check the account directly.