Scams and hoaxes
For those not accomplished enough to write a virus, piece of malware or the ability to hack, there are scams and hoaxes.
Most of these will arrive in your inbox, usually from a friend or relative, caring enough to warn you of some dreadful impending danger.
However, with a little common sense, these are extremely easy to spot.
They will normal contain the instruction to forward to at least 10 of your friends within a short time frame.
These are nothing more than chain letters. Harmless, but annoying, and bandwidth hogging.
There are other types of hoax emails, but these tend to be more Phishing related, and are sent from fake banks, PayPal, fake Nigerian Princes or fake benefactors of a large Will who would just love to share their vast fortune with you, a complete stranger.
Recently, we've seen a number of fake emails from UPS and Fedex explaining that they have an undelivered package for you.
As ever, and we cannot stress it enough, NEVER CLICK A LINK IN AN EMAIL
If you reveive an email reporting some terrible scare story (usually a virus) head over to Snopes.com and search for the subject of your email.
More often than not, it's a hoax email that's doing the rounds.
A recent report from the FBI following a spate of Haiti Disaster scams lists the following security tips:
• Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming emails, including clicking links contained within those messages
• Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via email or social networking sites
• Beware of organizations with copycat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities
• Rather than following a purported link to a website, verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by using various Internet-based resources to confirm the group’s existence and its nonprofit status
• Be cautious of emails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses; open attachments only from known senders
• To ensure your money is received and used for its intended purposes, make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf
• Do not be pressured into making contributions, as reputable charities do not use such tactics
• Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions; providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft
• Avoid cash donations if possible: Pay by debit or credit card, or write a check directly to the charity and do not make checks payable to individuals
Here are 6 of the most common types of email scam:
1) Verify your account before it's closed.
These are almost NEVER real. If the email contains urgency, asks for personal details, has bad spelling/grammar or is addressed to Dear User or similar, you know it's a scam. Delete these immediately without clicking any links.
2)A large sum of money is due to you.
These are NEVER real. Honestly, why would a person you've never heard of want to give you a vast sum of money? These take the form of an email saying you are the beneficiary of a will, a compensation, or from somebody who needs to transfer some money to your account. Delete these immediately without clicking any links.
3) You've won something!
Surely you're not that gullible, especially if you never entered the completion in the first place?!
These often take the form of news that you've won a lottery or sweepstake and they need you to call a certain number (which will cost you a fortune if you do) or they need your personal details. Delete these immediately without clicking any links.
4) A sudden emergency
There's a lot of these emails doing the rounds recently. They take the form of an email, usually from somebody you know (because your email address has been scraped from your friends infected computer) saying that they are in trouble, have been mugged or have lost all their money and would like you to wire transfer some money to them to help them home. You can spot these are bogus by the very fact that you probably know if your friend is abroad or not, but more importantly by the language the email uses, not tallying with the type of language your friend uses. You can always call your friend and check! Delete these immediately without clicking any links.
5) The Disaster Fund
Whenever there's a major global disaster like an earthquake or famine, scammers will send out emails pretending to be from charities. They will ask you to click a link to make a donation. Don't do it, charities will never cold email random people asking for money. If you're subscribed to a charity's mailing list, then they might send you information, but these emails will always address you by name, and you'll know that you support that charity. Be suspicious, always.
6) The Chain Email - 'If you don't send this on to your friends something bad will happen'
Any email that asks you to forward it to a number of others is always bogus. Even if it pretends to alert you to some terrible scam.
These often take the form of free services or products from major vendors, free discount vouchers, free phones etc., or are medical appeals for sick children, petitions or news of an impending computer virus. Don't EVER forward these emails. Firstly go to Snopes.com and search for the email you've received. You'll almost always find it here. Secondly, delete the email without interacting with it.
We hope this page has been useful. If so, please please let your friends and family know (but not by mass email asking them to forward to all their friends!)