Part of your daily routine probably includes checking email or catching up on texts – all pretty normal stuff until you see something about an urgent account problem or an update that needs to be made NOW.

What should you do? Start by being skeptical. It could very well be a scam to steal your money or your personal information.

‘Update account’ scams are common and can look frighteningly real. The message might mention problems with an order or a payment. It might say the company is updating all customer information. Or it will say your card on file is no longer working. And it all looks real because the scammers are using official identifying logos and domain names that are similar to the company’s actual name.

These kinds of phishing emails target human nature to fix problems. They want you to panic and send the information being requested. So how do you know if it’s a scam?

If an email or text asks for usernames, passwords, a Social Security number, financial account numbers or other detailed data, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. If the message contains misspellings or bad grammar, it could be a scam. And if there is some threat involved – such as fines or closing your account – it’s very likely a hoax.

Experts recommend the following things if you happen to get one of these unsolicited ‘update account information’ messages:

  • Don’t click any links or download attachments to verify anything. They probably want you to go to a fake website to fill out forms so they can collect information that can be used to steal your money or ID, or they might place malware on your device if your download an attachment.
  • Don’t call phone numbers listed in the email or texts.
  • If you think there’s a chance the request could be valid – such as updating a payment card expiration date – contact a company’s customer service staff by looking up and dialing an official telephone number or by typing in an official web address. Identify yourself and explain why you’re contacting them.
  • Make sure you are on an official website before updating account information, such as changing a password or modifying payment information.

While there might be times that you’ll need to update account information, make sure you’re not giving valuable personal information to the wrong people.