The computer helper: Don't get scammed (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Oct 27, 2008, 2:08 GMT
Washington - Online scammers are out in full force these days. They'll try to dupe you by e-mail or through websites. And they typically want one of two things: your money or your personal information. To make sure you don't give them either, you need to keep abreast of some of the tricks they're using. Read on to learn about a few.
Q: I received an e-mail from what appears to be my credit card company. The e-mail says that my credit card was used in a number of fraudulent transactions, and a few were listed that do appear fraudulent. There's a Word attachment that the company wants me to fill out and return. Is this a scam?
A: Yes, and you were wise not to rush to open the attachment. If you had, your computer would have been infected with a virus that, once installed, would have downloaded other malicious software onto your PC in an effort to harvest personal information from your computers. This is just one of several new and very sneaky e-mail scams that is making the rounds.
You can draw a few lessons from this e-mail message that will help you to avoid falling prey to other e-mail scams. First, no financial institution can or should send you a message that in any way prompts you to 'verify' account information or transaction history. Credit card companies, in particular, will always call you if they suspect that your credit card has been used fraudulently.
Second, any such message with an attachment of any type should be viewed very suspiciously. That's because getting an e-mail recipient to open an attachment is one of the primary means by which scammers spread viruses or malware that can harm your computer or compromise your privacy. In short, only open attachments from verified and verifiable senders - those whom you know or companies from which you have specifically requested electronic documents.
Finally, when in doubt, hesitate. Call the company in question to find out whether an issue raised in an e-mail message is legitimate.
Q: I received an e-mail from American Airlines saying that if I take an online survey by clicking a link, I will receive 50 dollars. I clicked the link and filled out the survey, but when I got to the part that requested my credit card number, I got worried. Is this a scam?
A: Yes, it is. This e-mail message is not from American Airlines, first of all, even though the link you clicked probably took you to a page that seemed like a legitimate corporate Web site.
This message is a phishing scam that was first spotted earlier this year, and it's good that you did not provide your credit card information. If you had, you would probably be dealing with the fallout from fraudulent charges to your account - or worse.
While this scam e-mail message ends up taking you to a legitimate- looking site, there are several warning signs that you should note for the future. First, a mainstay of the scamming or phishing trade is to send out an e-mail message which promises you a reward or money if you follow some instructions or a link provided in the message. Don't fall for it. Anyone these days who wants to give you money for performing a service will not choose e-mail as the means by which to deliver the message.
Also, before you click any link in an e-mail message, allow your mouse cursor to hover over the link before clicking it. Most e-mail programs today will display in a pop-up the full path behind the link. Take a moment to inspect where that link goes. If the Web address (URL) does not contain words that reflect the name of the company that purportedly sent the message, be suspicious.
Q: I received an e-mail message that said my internet account will be suspended because of downloading of copyrighted files. The e-mail was from the Internet Service Provider Consorcium. As proof, they attached a report of my activities. I was afraid to open the report because it was a zipped file with a strange name. Is this a scam?
A: It is. There is no such thing as an Internet Service Provider Consorcium, and note that 'consortium' is misspelled - the first sign that the message is fishy.
There exists no overarching administrative body that will warn you about illegal activity in this manner. If you're doing something illegal on the internet, you won't find out about through an e-mail message. Either your account will be suspended and/or you'll receive a visit from legal authorities.
Because many people aren't sure whether certain things they do online are legal, however, a rash of phishing e-mail messages that employ these scare tactics has emerged. They're all designed to get users to open attachments that provide 'proof' of the alleged wrongdoings.
If you open the attachment, you'll get a virus or malware on your computer, not proof of wrongdoing.
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