At the end of the financial year when our cashflow is at the top of every mind, the best message we can receive in our inbox is an offer of help, advice of a winning lottery ticket, or a request for a business partnership that is just too good to be true, right? Very wrong, and yet more of these are cropping up in our junk e-mail folders every day. Here are some tips on the latest online scams targeting users and how to avoid becoming a victim!
This first one is a big one to avoid – any e-mail, no matter whom the sender claims to be from or representing, that requests your personal information such as your bank account details, passport information, home address, date of birth, etc. should be IMMEDIATELY reported. Remember, no reputable institution would EVER ask you to send such important and delicate information via such an insecure network as your e-mail.
Similarly, e-mails claiming to be from large technology corporations or technology “service” providers will use the element of fear to scare you into action with e-mails telling you that your computer or e-mail or Internet has been hacked, and then say, “Just download the attachment to protect your PC or e-mail account forever.” Recently, such scammers have been requesting remote access to your computer so they can run a ‘scan’ of your Internet or Broadband connection. But when you download that attachment or allow the remote access to ‘scan’ your computer, they are really running a bogus program that reports thousands of flaws and viruses. They then try to get your credit card details to pay for expensive phony protection software, and in the meanwhile, your personal information has been snatched. Simple background checks into the company they claim to be from can be all you need to determine the legitimacy of the company, but as they often pose as large existing corporations, you are perfectly in your rights to directly call the company to ensure that the e-mail originated from them.
Our third recent scam is one that you must report to the appropriate authorities immediately as it is a level of fraud that denotes higher criminal charges than ordinary scams. These will be e-mails from the FBI or the Homeland Security Administration informing you that you have visited illegal websites and demanding that you answer a list of questions in the attachment to avoid penalties such as jail time. Now, this may sound ridiculous in the light of day, but it can be very easy in that moment of confusion to click on the attachment – which, in the recent spate of attacks, have been infecting computers with viruses and malware, and stealing personal and private information.
Number four is a particularly saddening case in the recent times of the economic crisis. Scammers attempt to take advantage of persons seeking jobs by claiming to have the secret to earning thousands of dollars a day. They may ask for your personal details or to make an “easy one-off payment” or membership fee to a website or program. You should always conduct your own background checks on any company or individual operating via the web; no matter how confident you feel in their professional-looking website or their “Make $5000 a week at home!” job offer, it may end up costing you a whole lot more than just the “membership fee”.
Last but not least are your stock-standard product e-mails with offers of sale that are far below comparable prices on items such as cars, vacations, flights, and even smaller items like household appliances or services. These tend to crop up around holiday time when we are all scurrying around like mad rabbits trying to find that perfect Mother’s Day present or Christmas getaway, and identity protection is the last thing on our minds. Click ‘Reply’ to do a simple reverse e-mail check, as this often reveals the sender’s e-mail address to be something like firstname.lastname@example.org – and again, background checks into the company and sender can save you far more than the fake discount they may be offering on that car or that holiday to Paris!