March Madness is upon us and many people in the United States are following intently the NCAA college basketball tournament.   While many of these people are sports fans, merely enjoying the competition, many others bet on the games, largely through office pools where you register online to pick your brackets and win prizes.  In addition, there are companies such as Yahoo Sports, ESPN and others that sponsor competitions for prizes.  Many of the office pools are done through ESPN, CBS or others that allow groups to set up office pools.  Generally, your participation in an office pool begins with an email containing a link for you to click on to in order to register and participate in the competition.  Unfortunately, identity thieves and scammers are sending out phishing emails that appear to be legitimate offers to join your company’s March Madness competition, but the links take you to phony, but legitimate appearing websites that ask you to input personal information used to make you a victim of identity theft.  In other instances, merely by clicking on the link contained in the email you will download malware such as ransomware or keystroke logging malware that can cause major problems.

TIPS

The best way to protect yourself from these types of March Madness scams is to not respond to any emails you receive asking you to join a March Madness pool that comes from a website, group or person with whom you have not dealt in the past.  Generally, if it is an office pool, you will get an email from someone who has operated the pool at your company in the past.  Even if the invitation to join the office March Madness pool appears legitimate, you should not click on the link in the email to join.  Rather type the web address of the sponsor of the tournament directly into your browser to avoid being sent to a phony March Madness website.  Finally, there is no reason for you to provide personal information in order to participate in your office pool so if the website asks for your Social Security number, a credit card number or bank account information, it is a scam.

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