How To Spot a Scam - Top 10 Scams to be Aware Of
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Scams have been around for many years where criminals see an easy opportunity to prey on the vulnerable. Unfortunately, since the dawn of the internet and email, opportunistic criminals have been more creative in their methods, and taking advantage of new technologies.
Most of us now know about the ‘Nigerian 419’ scam, whereby you have been selected to help a wealthy foreigner move millions of dollars from a war-torn country, and your reward is several thousands of dollars for your efforts. The catch is that they will want you to send possibly $1500 to secure the release of the money. Good bye $1500!
We’ve come up with our ‘Top 10’ scams to be aware of:
Similar to the 419 scam, this scam is often via email, claiming you are the last remaining family member of a long lost relative, who has left their millions of dollars and estate to you. It generally involves sending a sum of money via Western Union to help pay for the legal fees. Goodbye money!
Usually via email, you have won millions of pounds / Euros / dollars in a lottery. They are looking for people to reply via email, and then look for money to secure the release of the funds.
Virus on Computer / Free Virus Scan
On certain websites, when downloading legitimate free software, a pop-up may appear asking if you wish to perform a free virus scan, or that you have a virus on your computer and ‘click here to scan’. Such programs are not recommended to click on. They are generally ‘bogus’ and by clicking on them, you may potentially download a small program to your computer that could contain a virus or malware. If it is a virus it has the potential to make your computer run slowly, not function properly or worse.
If it is malware, it has the potential to record what you type into your computer and send it back to the infector. The purpose of the infecting software is to capture password information for personal banking and the like.Best advice is to stick with your own anti-virus software and install a malware protection product.
Fun Web Products / Toolbar Scam
On some sites you may be asked to install a ‘toolbar’ that may ‘help you’ in some way. Clicking on these prompts is not recommended, as they may contain malware, and carry out the same functions as described above.
Whenever a celebrity is in the headlines, scammers jump on board with the intention of making financial gain off the story. An example of this was when Michael Jackson was alive and in the headlines. Users were receiving emails from people they did not know, asking them to click a link to see photos. Those who clicked on the links could have potentially been infected with malware.Our recommendation is to NOT click links in email or online messages from anyone who you do not personally know.
These scams are carried out by email. The victim will receive an email that may look the same as if it came from their bank, internet service provider or other company they do business with.
The email may refer to the fact that the business is carrying out a major upgrade, and need you to click on a link to enter your personal details, including PIN numbers and passwords, to validate your account. The emails usually go one step further, by claiming your account will be deleted if you do not enter your details. This is also known as ‘scare mail’.
Users providing personal details run the risk of having their bank accounts accessed (if bank account credentials, including passwords are given), or email accounts accessed (if email username and passwords are provided). If you are a victim of such a scam, change your password using another computer immediately, and report it to the company you do business with.
By hovering your mouse over the link in the email, the TRUE path link will display for 10 seconds at the bottom of your screen. This will always be a site NOT related to the company you do business with.
Dating scams prey on the most vulnerable when they are looking for love online. Con men build up a relationship with someone over a period of time, and when they have their trust, make excuses to borrow money or possessions of the victim.Our recommendation is to never lend people possessions or money you have not known for some time.
There are over 2 million Facebook profiles in New Zealand, and it is becoming a popular platform for scammers and virus infectors to ply their trade. What’s more, some of these scams involve messages that come from your friends (or appear to be). These scams infect the people attached to your profile, and send a Facebook message to those in the list, so it may appear to come from a friend.A good tip is to NOT click any links in Facebook that may suggest you have been ‘captured’ in a photo or video. Caution should be exercised when receiving messages that look out of character.
Phone scams could be related to almost anything. Be suspicious if you are phoned asking for personal details such as credit card information or passwords. The latest telephone scam which has been widely reported is by an organisation claiming they know you have a virus on your computer.
The caller wants you to access your computer and go to a certain link. They claim to be able to fix your computer when you download a piece of software.Be warned. Downloading any software to ‘fix’ your computer via a ‘cold calling’ phone call is likely to infect your computer
with software designed to potentially record everything you type into the computer, and send it on to the infector. These criminals are looking for banking credentials, usernames and passwords.
Printer scams have only been recently reported. Large commercial printers in businesses have the ability to ‘scan and send’ documents straight from the printer.
Some scammers are now crafting emails that may appear to be a legitimate document coming from a business, when in fact it may be a file containing a virus.
Once again, be vigilant when opening documents sent via email.
As technology changes for the good, there will always be criminals who will exploit it as a new way to ploy their criminal activity for financial gain. As users of this technology, we need to be cautious, and look for ‘alarm bells’ when something looks suspicious.Courtesy of Dean Stewart - WebSafety NZ