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All You Need to Know About One-Time Password Scams


One-time passwords (OTPs) are a crucial security feature in our digital age, providing an extra layer of protection for online transactions and account logins. However, scammers often try to hijack these codes to steal sensitive information, money, or both. 

Here’s what to know about one-time password scams and how to avoid them.

What is a one-time password scam?

One-time password (OTP) scams seek to trick individuals into sharing their OTPs, which scammers then use to gain unauthorized access to accounts. Here are the various ways these scams go down:

  • Phishing scams. Here, cybercriminals send fake emails or text messages appearing to be from legitimate sources, such as credit unions or banks, online retailers, or social media platforms. These messages often contain urgent requests to verify your account or resolve an issue, prompting you to enter your OTP on a fraudulent website. 
  • Vishing (voice phishing). In this scam, scammers call victims and pretend to be from a reputable organization. They may claim suspicious activity on your account and request your OTP to secure it while exploiting your trust and sudden sense of urgency.
  • Man-in-the-middle attacks. In this method, attackers intercept communications between you and a legitimate service provider. When you request an OTP, the attacker captures and uses it to access your account.

Whichever method is used to steal your OTP, the scammer will then use it to access your accounts and possibly steal your identity.

Red flags

Avoid falling victim to a one-time password scam by watching out for these red flags:  

  1. Unexpected requests. Be cautious of unsolicited messages or calls asking for your OTP. Legitimate organizations won’t ask for your OTP unless you’re actively engaged in a transaction or login process.
  2. Urgency and threats. Scammers often create a false sense of urgency, claiming that immediate action is required to prevent something terrible from happening, like an account suspension or fraud. 
  3. Unusual sender information. Check the sender’s email address or phone number carefully. Scammers often use addresses or numbers that are slightly altered versions of legitimate ones.
  4. Suspicious links. Hover over links in emails or messages to verify the URL before clicking.
  5. Generic greetings and language. Scammers often use generic greetings like “Dear Customer” in their mass emails, which also tend to have spelling or grammatical errors. 

Protect yourself

Staying safe from OTP scams requires vigilance and adopting best practices for online security. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Never share your OTP. 
  • If you request your OTP, verify legitimacy by directly contacting the organization.
  • Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible.
  • Be wary of links in unsolicited emails or text messages. 
  • Install security software. 

If you’ve been targeted

Take quick action if you’ve been scammed or shared your OTP.

First, change the passwords on all affected accounts and those with similar login credentials. Next, inform the host organization of the account that it’s been compromised. They can help secure your account and guide you on additional steps. Monitor your accounts in the weeks and months, looking out for any unauthorized activity. Finally, file a report with your local consumer protection agency, the FTC, and the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

You may also consider identity theft protection immediately if sensitive information is compromised. 

Stay safe!

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