Category Archives: Scams

Tips to help avoid the many types of scams out there

Remote Access Scams

I just spoke with a member of our community who related a phone call he received.  Out of the blue, he was called by a person who said that he was working with Microsoft and wanted him to know that there were a lot of viruses going around in this area.  He then asked permission to log onto the person’s computer so he could help out.

The first mistake the user made was saying “OK.”  After the caller logged onto the computer, he went to a website and proceeded to start downloading a virus scanning program.  At this point, the computer owner started questioning the guy about his affiliation with Microsoft and how he knew there were viruses on his computer.  The caller, of course, tried to keep him on the line and sell him a service.

The whole thing ended with the owner telling the guy he was not interested and hanging up the phone and, I believe, restarting the computer.

I, too, have received these phone calls.  While the caller didn’t say he worked for Microsoft, he did say he was part of the Windows Support Group.

Object lesson:  No one is legitimately monitoring your computer unless you allow them to do so.  Do not fall for any caller claiming to be able to remove viruses or tune up your computer unless you specifically ask for this service.  Allow no one to log onto your computer unless you know who they are and trust them.  Once they are in your machine, who knows what type of software they will install or what data they will steal? Remember—your first line of defense is your common sense.

Gullibility

The success of nearly every scam that confronts us depends on one single factor — gullibility, our willingness to believe something that’s untrue, and then to take action that involves giving away money or information, circulating untrue emails, or downloading malware onto our computers.

A gullibility survey by The Ponemon Institute, a well respected privacy and information security firm, identified the following characteristics:

  • Among vulnerable categories, younger people are more likely to fall for a scam than seniors.
  • Americans are more gullible than the British or Australians — the three groups the survey covered.
  • Bogus prizes and antivirus software are the most successful at fooling people.
  • Supporters of the two main political parties in the U.S. are equally gullible when it comes to believing things that are untrue — not just in politics but in all aspects of life.

Most of us think we’re better at identifying scams than we really are.

Quoted from Internet ScamBusters.  You may read the entire article here:
http://www.scambusters.org/gullibility.html

E-mail Spoofs

We’ve been getting a lot of complaints from people complaining about their e-mail addresses being used to spam their friends.  Friends are getting mail telling them to “Hey, check out this neat site” and “Yo!  Look what I’ve found.”  All sorts of stuff like that.

The first thing the users think is that their e-mail accounts have been hacked.  This is a possibility.  In fact, the ones most commonly affected are people with addresses ending in aol.com, msn.com, and yahoo.com.  These e-mail servers seem to be favorite targets.

A more likely explanation is that someone has spoofed their e-mail addresses.  Their addresses can be obtained by anyone with access to a particular e-mail that was sent out with a lot of addresses on it.  Or, there could be spyware on a person’s machine that is sending all the e-mail addresses on their computer to someone who just wants a list of good e-mail addresses to use in their spam campaign.

What to do?  Be sure your internet security program is up to date.  When sending a message to a lot of people, use BCC (blind carbon copy) instead of just CC (carbon copy).  That way the addresses will not be visible to anyone who happens to get hold of the mail.  Believe me, you’ll be happier than if your friends suddenly start calling you complaining about that pharmacy site you referred to them!

Cell Phone Scams

These days, practically everyone has a cell phone.  Along with the ability to make normal phone calls, the texting feature of most of the phones is a (mixed) blessing.  While it enables people to quickly send a message to friends and family, it does eliminate the social benefit of actually hearing the voice of the person to whom you are communicating.  It also greatly increases the ease with which the “bad guys” can attempt to defraud you.

Cell phone spam (often called “smishing”) has greatly increased.  It’s so easy to get a user to click on a link that is sent for offers of free stuff.  (You DO know better, don’t you?)  Also, if there are instructions to reply with “STOP” or “NO” just resist the urge to do so.  Why?  Because in doing so you have just confirmed that your cell phone is active and will allow the spammers to send you even more stuff.  Not only that, but if you don’t have a data plan each message costs you.  It all adds up.  So what could happen?  You could lose money by buying into scams or you could get one of the cell phone viruses or other types of malware that are floating around out there.

As a matter of information, there is anti-malware software available for many phones.  Get a copy for your phone, just like you have for your computer.