You receive an e-mail similar to one of the following:
• You are being offered employment with an overseas company – all you have to do is open envelopes and process money.
• You meet a soldier from Iraq or Afghanistan through an online dating site asking for money.
• There is a problem with your [Visa, Citibank, PayPal, eBay, etc., etc.] account. Your personal information is needed to correct it.
• You receive an overpayment in the form of a money order or bank check. Cash the check and send the overage to a third party.
• The government has discovered a problem with your census or tax records. Your personal information is needed to correct it.
• You just won a lottery that you didn’t even know that you had entered. Send a handling fee to receive your winnings.
• A deposed government official in a foreign country wants to share his wealth with you. Send a handling fee to receive your money.
• You receive an e-mail with an offer to loan you money.
• You receive an unsolicited offer to become a “secret shopper.”
• You receive an invitation to attend an international conference, convention or workshop.
• An assassin has been hired to kill you. He is now repentant and will call off the murder in exchange for a large sum of money.
These are common money and identity theft schemes that are making the rounds on the Internet. And, unfortunately, folks fall for them every day. Reputable businesses do not ask for credit and personal information via e-mail, especially the government. E-mails asking for your personal account information are merely fishing expeditions by some scammer out to steal your money (known on the Internet as “phishing”). And there is no one in a foreign country that wants to give you money. This is not your lucky day, you didn’t win a lottery (in the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, etc., etc.)!
These, like all e-mail chain letters, should just be deleted. DO NOT RESPOND TO THEM!
Questions and Answers About Protecting Your Privacy and Security on the Computer
People of all ages and backgrounds use personal computers, and Internet-enabled devices to be more productive at work, surf the web, and stay in touch with friends and family. Being online has become a part of daily life for most people that it can be easy to forget the risks associated with the enjoyment and convenience. While there have been great advances in computer and Internet security, scam artists, hackers and stalkers still find ways to reach vulnerable targets. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported that there were 275,000 complaints and $265 million in losses from Internet scams in 2008, a jump from the previous year. Many people could avoid becoming victims by taking simple, but effective precautions and avoiding unnecessary risks.
The “Internet Safety Trainer’s Manual” can help answer many questions about how to keep children, computer data and personal information safer and more secure. This publication is part of an educational and training module that includes a multilingual companion brochure; “Internet Safety: A computer user’s guide to privacy and security,” (available in Chinese, English, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese); a training guide for classes and seminars; PowerPoint slides, and class activities.
This Consumer Action module is free for individuals, non-profits and community-based organizations. To learn more about our training modules
What are some of the risks that Internet users face?
The main risks Internet users face include:
- Inappropriate or unwanted contact (cyberbullying and spamming, for example)
- Inappropriate or inaccurate content (pornography and hate sites, for example)
- Deceptive or fraudulent commerce (counterfeit and malicious sites, for example)
How do crooks and con artists find their victims online?
Crooks and scammers have many ways to find their potential victims, and they’re constantly coming up with new ones. Beware of:
- Phishing—an attempt to “hook” you into revealing your personal and confidential information by sending emails that seem to come from a legitimate business.
- Spam—unwelcome email and instant messages, which may offer goods of no or little value or a promise of financial rewards if you give the sender money.
- Malware—malicious software (spyware, Trojans, viruses and worms) that can be remotely installed on your computer, making it possible for the person who controls the malicious software to steal, damage or delete your files and other data.
- Malicious websites—harmful sites that lure users by promising content on popular breaking news stories, offers from retailers, or other desired information. Links to such sites can appear among online search results, or can be sent to you via email, or on social network pages (such as Facebook or MySpace, etc.).
- Transactions that are not secure—sites that don’t have secure payment forms or companies that store debit and credit card information without proper safeguards, may give crooks the opportunity to intercept your personal information.
- Social networking—users who reveal too much personal information in their online profiles or who arrange to meet online contacts in person may be at risk; or the sites may compromise your personal information.
What does a phishing email look like?
Typically, a phishing email appears to come from a financial institution, a large company, a chain store, a social networking site, or a government agency. The messages try to mimic a legitimate site by using the same or similar colors, logos, fonts and layout. And they often include a link to a legitimate-looking but phony Web page that asks you to enter personal information.
One tip-off that an email may be phishing is the use of phrases such as “Verify your account” and “Your account will be closed” if you don’t provide certain sensitive information such as login name and password. A legitimate business will never ask for such personal information via email.
Promising big lottery winnings, prizes or other windfall if you pay money upfront is another common phishing scam.
Another tip-off for phony emails is misspellings, bad grammar, incorrect punctuation, and awkward language—things you wouldn’t expect in a legitimate email message from a business or organization.
The best advice is to trust your instincts. Always contact the financial and other institutions you do business with directly, by phone or by typing the company’s URL (Web address), into your browser. Look for legitimate phone numbers on your billing statement or phone directory. And remember—if something appears too good to be true, it probably is.
What should I do if I suspect an email message I receive is a phishing attempt?
Do not reply to the email. Forward the message to your Internet service provider (ISP), contact the company the email claims to be from, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.onguardonline.gov. Large companies often have special “abuse” email addresses you can forward the email to, such as firstname.lastname@example.org.
What if I have already responded and fear I may be a victim of identity theft?
Immediately change the passwords on your online accounts, and notify the fraud department at the institution that was mimicked. Request your credit report from the three main credit reporting agencies: Equifax (800-525-6285), Experian (888-397-3742), and TranUnion (800-680-7289). The reports are free to victims of identity theft. You can also request free reports from all three agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com.
When you receive your credit reports, review them carefully for accounts you don’t recognize, which may be signs of identity theft. Consider placing a security freeze on each report, which means that no new credit can be extended without your personal approval.
What’s the difference between a virus, a worm, a Trojan and spyware?
All these types of malicious software, or malware, pose a serious threat to your computer and data.
- A virus invades a computer and copies, deletes or damages data.
- A worm is a virus that reproduces itself and spreads to other computers.
- A Trojan (short for Trojan horse) is a virus that, despite appearing to be good or helpful, actually destroys your data, damages your computer, and steals your personal information.
- Spyware is software that tracks your online activity, can launch numerous pop-up ads, and may steal your personal information or change your computer settings without your knowing.
How can I avoid malicious websites?
Never click on, or copy and paste, links that are sent to you by people or companies you don’t know. If you want to verify that the site is legitimate, type (don’t copy) the homepage portion of the URL (ending with .com or .net, etc.) directly into your browser address bar. When doing an online search, visit only results that are well known and trusted sources of information.
Stay Safe Be Cautious !!