What Else Is In Scott's Head?

The blog site for writer Scott C. Smith. Some observations on the world we live in and life in general. And maybe some politics.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The One About Scams

If you're like most people, you probably get occasional forwarded e-mail, usually some sort of diatribe attributed to a celebrity (such as the I'm A Bad American essay often attributed, incorrectly, to people like George Carlin and Ted Nugent), or a warning that a certain group is currently attempting to harm others (such as the warning about a gang initiation where the gang member would kill the driver of a vehicle that flashed its headlights at the gang member), and many more.

You'll notice I included links to the web site Snopes. They've been debunking urban legends for years now, and they are always my first choice when I get an e-mail forwarded to me that sets off my alarms.

Like your family probably does, my family forwards these e-mails all the time.

A good rule of thumb: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No, Bill Gates is not giving away money to people that forward a certain e-mail to "test" some sort of e-mail program; that person from Nigeria who is offering you millions to help move funds to a bank account is, in fact, going to rip you off; the person on the phone claiming you have received a government "grant" and all they need is your bank account information to process the "grant" are trying to rip you off.

Another scam involves a company sending an e-mail, requesting that the recipient log in to their account and "update" the information. This is known as "phishing." Say you buy and sell using Ebay. You might one day get an e-mail with an Ebay e-mail address stating you need to provide your credit card number, or reset your password, or provide a social security number. The e-mail will include a link to a web site.

Never, ever, comply with such an e-mail. For instance, in the e-mail, you might see something like this:

To help speed up this process, please access the following form to complete the verification of your eBay account registration informations: &fraud alert id code=00936614

But before you click on that link (and don't do it here!), hover your mouse pointer over the URL. Notice something? The Internet address is different that what the link says. Clicking on that link will not take you to Ebay. It'll take you to the phony web site the scammers will use to get your personal information and rip you off.

I get these e-mails at least twice a week. From Ebay, from Citibank and other financial institutions. They're all a rip-off. Be suspicious if you are directed to a non-secure web site where you are asked to enter credit card information. A secure web site (used by legitimate businesses) will start with HTTPS. A non-secure site will start with HTTP. Actually, a good rule of thumb is never provide credit card or social security numbers to a non-secure web site. I was ripped off once after winning an auction through Ebay. At the end of the auction the seller provided a link to pay for the item. I did, and didn't notice the site was non-secure. After inputting my information and clicking on "send" I got a "page not found" error message. And at that moment I had to do a Homer Simpson "D'oh!" because I knew I had just sent off my information to the scammer. And, sure enough, a few days later, the scammer had started to charge things to my credit card. I caught it early on (the scammer will usually attempt to use your credit/debit card for purchases in small amounts, such as $1.99, to test if the card works and if the scammer gets away with it. They did a couple of these $1.99 transactions and then a $50 purchase. At that point I cancelled the card and reported it stolen. I was lucky to get my money refunded, and the only hassle was getting a new debit card).

When in doubt, or if something sounds suspicious, head on over to Snopes and see if they've reported on the issue. In most cases, they have.


Blogger mulligan said...

I get a e-mail supposedly from PayPal nearly every day. It's so silly. I haven't replied yet. Matter of fact, I forward them to You'd think they'd stop sending them to me.

7:02 PM  

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