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Common Online Money Scams
Avoiding Email Phishing Scams
I have to be honest. When I saw my first phising email, I thought it was legit. I emailed the bank and said I don't even have an account with you. The damn scammer had the balls to email me back and say "What was your account number and password again?". That's when it hit me, I'm being scammed. It seems like the Summer of 2003 opened everybody's eyes. In one year the reported number of victims of scammers via email went up 800%. Let's see if we can help you stay clear of these jerks.
Honestly, the number one be-all, end-all answer is to never give your financial information out ever. If my bank emails, calls, or instant messages me; I delete the message or hang up the phone. I then immediately look back at all the information that I got when I set up an account and call that support number just to check if it was a scam. I did this three times this year alone.
Other things that are a dead give away that it is a fake include:
1. Bad Spelling-
Most scammers are not native born English speakers. When you see them spell "bank" as "banks", you know something is screwy.
2. Funky URLs-
I would never click on a bank's email to me. Even when I know it's legit and I initiated the email. But, if you must look for non-alphabetic charcaters or symbols.
3. High Sense of Urgency-
These scams last about 48 hours until someone finds out and takes action to shut down their sites. So the email always says, "Act NOW or some huge problem will occur!"
4. "Confirm" or "Validate" Are In The Title Of The Email-
I have yet to see a bank in the last two years use these two words in their emails. They know that their customers don't trust that, so they don't do it that way.
What is Phishing?
Have you ever received an email from a financial institute, PayPal, and/or Ebay claiming that there is an urgent discrepancy in your account or login procedure? In most cases, you have never even heard of these banks or account ever before. Sure you have, we all have! You actually were a target of a Phisher! I received 13 phishing emails today alone.
Scammers are trying to get you to take action based on their emails. They are trying to trick you into sharing all the financial information they can get out of you.
In most cases, they set up a fake web site with the sole purpose of hording your information and either using it to drain your accounts or they might sell it to another fellow low life. In most cases phising is done via an email. It can also be done via a phone call or instant message.
If they try to get you to go to a web site, in most cases it will be the spitting image of the regular bank’s web site. They may even spoof the URL so that it looks exactly like your bank's site, for example: instead of (www.yourbank.com) it might come back as (yourbank.imstealingfromyou.com)
Another common method is to place the symbol @ in the URL. The @ symbol breaks up the URL. So, http://firstname.lastname@example.org takes you to imstealingfromyou.com.
Other more sophisticated attacks actually use the bank's web programs against you to make it look like every thing on the web site is legit.
What Is Malware?
Malware is software that you unintentionally install or are tricked into installing on your computer that causes harm. Malware is only second to viruses as far the harm it can cause. In most cases, you would rather get a virus on your computer than installing Malware on your computer. Virus we make your computer useless, but worst case scenario you pay some geek to fix your computer for $150. Malware on the other hand can be a method for a scammer to gain access to your bank accounts.
You're probably saying "Doesn't my Antivirus software protect me from Malware?". The short answer is maybe. Not all Antivirus vendors offers suites that include Malware scanners. If so, it is usually apart of a larger Internet Security Suite. Even if they do, they are slow to identify other companies software as Malware due to fear of being sued. If Company A labels a product as Malware and it is a source of Revunue for Company B, Company A better be ready to defend that claim in court.
The Malware programs you really need to worry about are:
Hijackers take over or control a part of your web browser. It may be something as simple as locking your homepage on their web address. Some malware change the search functionality of your web browser, it may display pop-ups at any given time. They also may not allow you visit certain web sites. For example sites that tell you how to remove it. Hijackers almost exclusively target Intenet Explorer due to mass use. I got hit with one of these two years ago. Every 90 seconds a pop-up would come up telling me my computer was infected with a Spyware and I needed to buy their software to make it better. This is the digital equivalent of paying protection money to the mafia. I reported it to the FBI. I received a notice two weeks later from the FBI that they found the name of company doing this. They also stated that over 10,000 people reported the same thing. I kept Googling the name in the news and would you know, 2 guys got 4 years in prison from that company.
This software records every key stroke you make on your keyboard. Parents use similar software to monitor their children's use of the computer. But, imagine if a scammer knew every key stroke you made while visitng your online bank's web site. See the problem? I haven't seen too many people plauged by this. I have read about a dozen people getting hit by something like this.
Since most people are switching to broadband and don't have a phone modem attached to their computer, this is slowing becoming a thing of the past. A dialer will install itself and then dial 1-900 numbers and ring up your phone bill. Because this scam hit the public eyes a few years back, most people hit by it are refunded their money right away. On top of that, their better at catching the scamsters. It is very difficult to get a 1-900 number these days without fully disclosing the use and providing validated credentials.
How do you avoid installing Malware on your computer?
1. Read all disclosures.
2. Don't download and install any software you do not have 100% trust in.
3. Don't follow links in emails send to you.
4. Check your software up to date. Install all patches ASAP.
5. Use a Security Suite that checks for this and removes it.
6. Use a firewall
What Is Spyware?
Spyware is software that you intentially or unintentionally install on your computer that tracks your internet activity. The software then periodically transmit this information back to another person. In most cases spyware is used to track behavior for an advertising purpose.
Spyware will usually come bundled with software that use and appreciate. Some spyware can change your computer's settings slowing it and bringing it to a crawl. I have had to reformat my computer's hard drive twice due to the performance problems I got for spyware in the past.
Not all spyware is bad. In some cases you may use a program like a free email client and in return you agree to allow them to show you ads. They gather information about what you like by tracking your usuage of their program and send you ads targetted to that behavior. For instance, you are a baseball nut. The software can tell this because one in every ten emails you send include the phrase "pitch", "home run", and/or "batting". A baseball movie comes out and advertise in their software. Guess what ad you will continually see?
To avoid spyware, just make sure to read every disclosure prior to downloading and installing any programs.
Because we all can be smarter with our money.