This Phish Got Away!

Here at Sinu, we try to provide the latest tech news, predict trends, and share best practices – especially when it comes to protecting your data and other tech assets. Well, here is where taking our own advice paid off.

I work in sales and marketing at Sinu and was subject to a recent phishing attempt. An email came through the website’s contact form saying we had to pay to renew the web domain or it would be auctioned off. It was not an automatic email… someone had to actually fill in the form and did with complete and coherent sentences that were grammatically correct. I clicked on the link, the webpage looked legitimate, had used some logos of well-known online data security firms, and asked for $93 to renew for the year. Seemed a bit steep, and didn’t I just renew that url? 

sinu blog phish 2.png

In a sophisticated phishing attempt, a scammer filled out the contact form on the website asking us to renew our domain. The message had no misspellings and directed me to a legitimate-looking web address with logos of reputable tech security companies.

Sinu phish blog logos.png

First instinct, pay it! That’s what some in the online scam business might call social engineering. It was 7:30 am, I was stressed for time trying to get through my emails so I could start on a big project, and, of course, I did not want the website to go down. If I just paid it, it would be quicker and fixed – or maybe not. Recalling a blog Sinu did a while back about phishing scams: if it feel fishy, it could be an online scam and worth slowing down and checking out.  But this did not have the classic misspelled words and seemed to have a valid url. 

I dug deeper. Tried the phone number they provided on the Contact page and there was a busy signal. 

Concerned, I took a deep breath. Wait, I know we bought the url and hosting through one company. I had the account number, looked up their customer service number online, and a real human answered! Our domain was all set through the next 3 years and the customer service angel confirmed It was likely a phishing scam.

It occurred to me what a nightmare it would have been if someone else, such as the web developer or marketing consultant, had purchased the url for us years back thinking they did not want to bother us with that.  I had heard about that dozens of times with small businesses who did not actually own or control their own url or other technology accounts (such as the Adwords account, social media pages, etc.) and we were motivated to warn others in a blog about the dangers of not having control of your IT assets. I can attest first hand that you do not want that risk and if I was not sure we actually controlled that url and where to check on the renewal, I may have been quick to pay the $93 and, worse yet, the scammer would have had our credit card info and perhaps other lurking dangers in store.

Lessons learned in a nutshell:

1) Take the time to look into any online request for payments

2) Online scammers have learned to spell and compose grammatically correct sentences

3) Own your IT assets and know how to contact your vendors

4) Use vendors with live reps that have a good reputation for customer service

5) Don’t believe what you see – it is easy for people to steal the logos of reputable companies and post it on their webpage to look legit

6) Read our blogs!

7) Use your instinct – if it smells bad, you might want to let that rotten phish get away