Avoid emerging Internet scams
If you’ve had your e-mail account for any length of time, your inbox is probably full of scam e-mails. A Nigerian prince needs your help with some financial difficulties and in exchange you are going to be rich! You’ve won a myriad of prizes ranging from an Xbox 360 with a new giant LCD TV, to several different gift cards from Wal-Mart, Target and Sears!
While many savvy computer users recognize these types of e-mails as scams, others are taken in. According to a joint government report, the number of complaints received by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has increased from 275,284 in 2008 to 336,655 in 2009. The estimated dollar loss from all referred cases was $559.7 million. This first edition of Powered Up will examine four scams that emerged in 2009.
There are several different variations of the FBI e-mail scam. The FBI lists specific details regarding several of these scams at http://www.fbi.gov/cyberinvest/escams.htm. The e-mails employ strange phrasing and often contain spelling and/or grammar errors. Victims will receive an e-mail purporting to be from top U.S. government officials. Many of these types of e-mails contain attachments and/or links embedded within the e-mail. You should never open these attachments or click the links in the e-mail. Many may contain viruses.
The IC3 first reported on Hitman scams in December of 2006. Today, e-mail sent to consumers has changed. Victims receive an email from a member of an organization such as the “Ishmael Ghost Islamic Group.” In the e-mail the scammer writes that the victim, or victim’s family, will be killed unless $800 is sent to an Islamic receiver in the United Kingdom to support migration of expatriates to the U.S.
Astrological reading scam
This is an old scam that has once more resurfaced. This scam isn’t always found in e-mail; many times a victim receives a pop-up message offering a free astrological reading. After providing personal information, such as birth date and birth location, victims are offered a full reading at a cost. After paying for the reading, the victim never receives it, and has no way to contact the Astrologer who promised to do the reading.
Economic stimulus scam
This scam begins with an unsolicited phone call with a recorded message from someone who sounds like President Barrack Obama. The message advises people that they can obtain government stimulus funds if they visit a website and apply. Of course, the money is only available for a limited time, and there is a small, $28, processing fee to complete the application. After completing the extensive application, and paying the fee, victims never receive any money.
Don’t get hooked
1. Never refund any portion of a down payment or purchase paid by check until the funds have fully cleared into your account. Contact your financial institution for clearing times.
2. Never click on a link within a solicitous e-mail, taking you to sites that look familiar, but in fact are copies used to fool consumers – called “phishing” sites. Most of these ask you to verify your account information, providing sensitive information to the scammer.
3. When purchasing items from an online auction site, be sure you understand the details of payment protection coverage. Scammers will often hold up finalizing transactions until the date passes to open a dispute.
Written and compiled by Ed VanHoose 217-241-7941 firstname.lastname@example.org