Citi Field. PHOTO: Cybercrime Magazine.

New York Mets Fans Take On The Cyberspace Phishers At Citi Field

What we learned about Internet scams at a Major League Baseball game

Steve Morgan, Editor-in-Chief

Northport, N.Y. – Sep. 30, 2019

Cybercriminals may want to think twice about hurling phishing scams at New York Mets fans.

The Philadelphia Phillies came to town on September 8, 2019, and delivered a 10-7 loss to the Mets. But the fans had something to cheer about that day — they defeated The Cyberspace Phishers.

It’s official — the MLB 2019 season concluded yesterday and the playoffs are about to start. Although the Mets took a disappointing third place in the NL East, their ace pitcher, Jacob deGrom, is in the running for a second straight Cy Young award, and their young slugger, Pete Alonso, became the first major league rookie to hit 53 home runs.

The future is bright for the Mets in 2020.

Let’s take a look at the highlight reel from the first-ever MLB phishing game earlier this month.

Ruth Bashinsky, senior editor for Cybercrime Magazine and starting pitcher for The Cyberspace Phishers, took to the mound and threw cybersecurity questions at one Mets fan after the next — for nine straight innings.

The first fan, Ryan, in his early twenties, struck out. “I don’t know what a phishing scam is; if you wanted me to tell you what it was, I can’t tell you,” he blurted out, wearing a baseball cap on backwards and Ray-Bans — with a couple of his buddies looking on. It’s possible that one beer too many may have influenced his answer.

“Not fishing with a pole, but phishing … p-h-i-s-h-i-n-g … phishing,” said the next fan at bat, Arnold, a senior citizen standing outside of a concession store, spelling out his knowledge of cyber scams.

A big swing and a miss for the next fan up, Theresa, a twenty-something-year-old girl who said, “I thought you meant cat-fishing, like when you’re on … like a dating app … and it’s someone who isn’t who they say they are.”

“I do know what a phishing scam is,” confidently stated the next batter, Kelly, a twenty-plus-year-old petite redhead decked out in a Mets cap and matching T-shirt. “It’s when someone is kind of pretending to be someone else in order to get private information, usually over email,” she added.

Batting cleanup was Sal, a stocky man in his fifties wearing dark glasses and a stare that could be mistaken for an off-duty police officer. “… it logs your keystrokes, steals your password…” he explained about even more sophisticated hacks. Turns out he’s an actual cybersecurity expert.

Jake, tall, fit and in his mid-thirties, is a serious Mets fan, and he wore an official MLB jersey and cap to prove it. “A question when they’re trying to find out some information,” he started off. “They can empty bank accounts, you can send them money, and once that money is gone, you’re stuck.” He advises that the simplest thing (for his co-fans) is to just be aware. “An email can come from the name of someone you know who you work with, but typically the email address is some generic one.”

As the game wore on, and fans relived their real-world experiences of going up against nefarious characters they’ve never actually met, it was clear who was winning this game. Yes, some fans had been spoofed and suffered losses in the past. But it’s made them more resilient, and much tougher opponents.

Cheryl, in her late thirties, had her hair tied in a ponytail, donned large framed glasses that looked like goggles, and wore a dark hoodie. “Someone I know went through for a job and was scammed out of $5,000,” she explained, providing extensive details on how the hack was carried off. She’s a wealth of information on phishing and other types of cyber scams, and advises her friends and family on how to protect themselves.

“Seniors are not savvy on the Internet,” said Carl, a mid-fortyish man wearing a black polo shirt and sunglasses pulled back over a receding hairline. “If it’s too good, it’s no good,” he advises. “There’s no such thing as something for nothing; don’t do it.” He wants the elderly to pay more attention to what might be phishing scams.

Sometimes a bad experience is the best teacher. “I did (get hacked) years ago and it ruined my whole computer system,” shared Maria, a young mom at the game with her daughter, who is much more aware and prepared for cyber scams now.

The Mets fans scored a convincing victory over the Phishers. But, they shouldn’t be overconfident. Cybercrime Magazine has been conducting a new and more sophisticated survey, asking people a follow-up question — Do you know what a spear-phishing attack is? Most respondents are whiffing on that one.

The MLB playoffs start tomorrow, October 1, which coincidentally happens to be the first day of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM). If you don’t know what a phishing scam is yet, then we suggest you get started by familiarizing yourself with the online safety basics from the National Cyber Security Alliance.

(The fans names in this story have been changed to protect the innocent.)

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Steve Morgan is founder and Editor-in-Chief at Cybersecurity Ventures.

Go here to read all of my blogs and articles covering cybersecurity. Go here to send me story tips, feedback and suggestions.