A few days ago I received an email, which supposedly came from Google, asking me for my account information and password in order to do some sort of upgrade so that I could continue my service. I smelled phishing and proceeded to delete. Here is an article from computoredge about a variety of Internet scams.
“Con artists have expanded their reach.”
by Wally Wang from www.computoredge.com
“If you’re an experienced Internet user, you’ve probably heard of the Nigerian 419 scam. This is where you get an unsolicited e-mail from a stranger overseas, claiming that they need your help in releasing millions of dollars. In exchange for your help, this benevolent stranger is willing to pay you part of the money, which you can claim by paying an initial fee, ostensibly to bribe an official or pay bank fees.
If you send this unknown person money, they’ll keep dangling the promise of millions of dollars awaiting you, but only if you continue sending additional cash to overcome an inevitable barrage of problems. Each time you send money, you’ll be more inclined to send more to avoid losing the “investment” you’ve already made in this incredible offer. The con artists will happily keep up this pretense as long as you keep sending money.
Fool Me Twice
If victims ever wake up to the fact that they’ve been conned, they’ll have to face the shame of being duped for several months along with whatever amount of money they sent out while getting nothing in return. And now the con artists often circle back a second time around.
Suddenly, you may find another unsolicited e-mail, stating that a special antifraud division has tracked down the con artists who have scammed you. If you want this government agency to recover your lost money, you’ll need to fill out some official-looking documents along with paying a processing fee.
Needless to say, many victims are so angry at the con artists and lusting for revenge that they’ll eagerly fill out this bogus document and send in the processing fee—only to have the vicious cycle repeat all over again.
Supposedly, this antifraud government agency needs to bribe more officials or pay additional fees to keep the con artists in jail so they can be brought to court. Once again, you’ll need to keep sending money to these con artists, who are very likely the same con artists who bilked you initially. (After all, how else would they know that you were conned in the first place?)
The original Nigerian 419 scam has ripped off people for thousands of dollars and continues duping people to this day. This added twist of ripping off the same people a second time, by masquerading as a government antifraud agency, is another development designed to catch victims off guard and steal their money before they realize what’s happening.
Spear Phishing on Facebook
As more people wise up to unsolicited e-mail scams, con artists are resorting to something called spear phishing. Where phishing involves sending out mass e-mails with the same scam letter, knowing that a small percentage of people will always take the bait, spear phishing involves targeting specific people. One of the most popular ways to spear phish is through social networking sites such as Facebook.
Like other social-networking sites, Facebook lets you reveal details about yourself, which any stranger can read. Plus, you can link to your friends and read personal details about these people, which a stranger can also read.
Now con artists will target a specific individual, using personal information found on that person’s Facebook page and any of their friends’ Facebook pages. If you suddenly receive an e-mail containing information that only you and your friends know about, suddenly that unsolicited e-mail sounds far more credible. Of course, the con artist is simply using your own information against you.
Even more insidious is that con artists will often contact you through Facebook and provide a link, which leads to an error message and an official-looking Facebook login page. When you retype your password and account into this bogus page, the con artist now has the information needed to hijack your Facebook account and masquerade as you.
Using your Facebook account, the con artist can now contact all of your friends with a frightening story of how you traveled overseas and lost your wallet and passport or some other sob story. Since your friends are receiving these messages directly from your Facebook account, they have no reason not to believe it isn’t you. More than likely, they’ll wire the necessary money to the overseas account that the con artist provides, and never see their money again.
Trust No One
The simplest way to protect yourself from online scams is to trust no one online, not even your own friends and relatives. If a con artist hijacks an e-mail or Facebook account, receiving a message from a trusted source is still no guarantee that you aren’t being scammed.
If you do receive a message from a friend, asking for money, contact that person through another method, such as by phone. Try asking your “friend” a question that only your real friend could possibly know.
Besides not trusting anyone on the Internet, a second golden rule is to never send money to an unfamiliar recipient. Even if you recognize the bank’s name, don’t follow the instructions given to you in an e-mail message, but contact the bank by phone or in person. Circumventing the con artist’s communication channel can identify a scam by asking a bank official to verify the information you received.
Con artists are never going to go away. With the Internet, con artists have just expanded their reach.
For further protection, keep yourself educated about the variety of online scams out there by visiting OnGuard Online.
To really protect yourself, never give money to anyone. That will protect you from con artists along with isolating you from most of your relatives, who can often be the biggest scam artists of them all.
In the early days, before Wally became an Internationally renowned comedian, computer book writer, and generally cool guy, Wally Wang used to hang around The Byte Buyer dangling participles with Jack Dunning (http://www.computoredge.com/) and go to the gym to pump iron with Dan Gookin.
Wally is responsible for Microsoft Office 2007 for Dummies, Breaking Into Acting for Dummies, Beginning Programming All-in-One Reference for Dummies, and Mac All-in-One Reference for Dummies from http://www.dummies.com, as well as, Steal This Computer Book 4.0, Visual Basic Express 2005: Now Playing, and My New Mac from http://www.nostarch.com. He is also the co-author of Strategic Entrepreneurism from http://www.selectbooks.com.