Scams, slams, and phishing on the net

Happy Holidays from Merritt Enterpirzes
With the holidays upon us I wanted to post a blog that specifically addresses the most prevalent problem on the net today. Scams or how dubious persons or companies are trying to get your money into their pockets.

I think that well all should own up to taking some responsibility for these problems. The reason that scams are so abundant on the web is that they work. Reasonable people from all walks of life are taken in every day thinking, they are getting something for nothing. That is the key, if you think for one second that this “offer” sound too good to be true, then it usually is. Call me suspicious or critical by nature, but I will look a gifted horse in the mouth and/or anything else that carries the label of “free”.

First let’s take a look at all the “offers” you may receive in your email box. Solicitations through emails have been around for years and will more than likely be with us for millennium. The one that is most laughable and directed to the most gullible, are the ones that present the reader with the proposition that they can participate in a scheme that will net them millions of US dollars. Of course all that they will need is some of your contact information but that is only where it starts. Once they have you “hooked” these scammers will be asking you for a “small” monetary amount to complete this transaction. Believe me, once your money is in their hands, you will never hear from them again.

Another Scam that has been hitting my email box is “investment opportunities”. You know, if I am considering investing in a company or stock, I think the best course of action will be to research the company or stock thoroughly with a reputable investment firm before I lay down my hard earned cash rather than rely on a promise that was part of an email blast sent to god knows how many prospective clients. I just love the way that some of these communiqué state that this particular stock has a 100% ROI or has gained 50% gain in the market in the last 6 months. Do a little research on your own and you will see the fallacies in the statements made in the proposition that landed in your email box.

Other opportunities land in my inbox from time to time. These include developers from other countries. They promise all kinds of web work at fantastic prices but will fail to deliver the contemporary and best practice code that you would expect from any of your own associates. I have and will continue to use (if needed) local personnel who are the best fit for the particular project that is in my queue. I have found that if my client has a particular need or expectation and I need to confer with my assistant he/she is just a phone call away and a face to face meeting is always doable. Let’s face it, the people that I deal with directly are responsible for their work, but if you shop overseas, once they have been paid, you are on your own.

If you have an account with craigs list or facebook or another social media site that has your email posted for contact information, then you will surely encounter this kind of deception. You may find from time to time a notice that may look like it has been delivered to you from one of these social media sites telling you that your account is in danger of being terminated if you do not respond to this email or follow the link provided. If you look at the url you can determine that even though it may have a reference to the site you have an account with, the domain name is just a bit different. Be forewarned, these messages are not coming from the site you have an account with, but is an effort to hack your account if you provide them with the information requested, like your password. I always look at the url by passing my mouse over the link to determine if the visible link is actually going to take me to what is posted in the email. Do be wary, of links that are particularly long, that they may contain instructions to the server to gain additional information about you that you may not want to disclose.

From time to time you may finding yourself “surfing the web”. Following links that you hope will provide you with the information that you are seeking. Having an up-to-date browser will help you avoid some of the hackers and scammers out there. Firefox does a particularly good job of preventing other programs from accessing your system. My outlook program prevents the downloading of images in the messages that I am reading unless specified otherwise, preventing a lot of hacks that may contain viruses, Trojans, and other malware, spyware, and phishing programs intended on infecting my machine. Best practice is to send these messages to the spam folder immediately for deletion at a later date. This will also allow for any subsequent messages from this particular sender to be sent to the spam folder for review/deletion at your discretion.

Head on Computer
Now for one of my favorites, malware problem solvers, your surfing the web one day minding your own business when up pops a message stating that your computer is infected with a “virus” and it needs to be disinfected ASAP or your system will incur disastrous system damage within the immediate future. This message will look genuine and may even sport the logo of your OS manufacturer. Within this message contains a solution and download from a company that states that they will be able to cure all your ills for a small monetary amount. The hook is that once you have downloaded this “solution” your machine will be infected with malware, but not from some unknown source, but from the download that you have just installed. Of course the subsequent malware messages that you receive will be requesting more money from you for more “solutions” or maybe a subscription that need to be purchased on a regular basis.

This kind of scam is the most insidious because of the fact that the solution itself is the problem. In fact you may try to close the popup window only to find that this program has downloaded itself onto your system even without your consent. What to do? Close the browser, even if you have to do the Alt/Ctrl/Delete key command to close the browser manually. If you do have a problem with malware, I would suggest using Malwarebytes that does a pretty decent job on locating and deleting this kind of program on your machine. Other systems cleaners are out there but I would research them thoroughly (pros and cons) before using any of them. Of course if you have found yourself in dire straits and no solution is available or working for you, try to back up all your current data to a separate drive and then reinstall your OS with a complete reformat of the hard disk. This finial solution is a bit drastic but it will get rid of all the bugs in your system and you will be able to start will a clean slate.

Phone image

The last couple of scams that needs a bit more exposure is not web based but are cons done over the phone. Recently I received a call while I was at my desk. The caller claimed to be from the Microsoft Corporation and was trying to tell me in a rather heavy accent, that I had several viruses on my machine and that she would be able to help me by allowing her access to my OS. This kind of scam really tries my patience. First, Microsoft would not be contacting me directly no matter what was happening on my system. Secondly, my system shows no sign of infection and is scanned for any type of viruses on a regular basis. My reply was rather harsh, needless to say I told this operator that my system is firewalled and should they try to gain access to my system I will take legal action against them, and hung up the phone.

This particular scam happened to my father-in-law not once but twice. He received a call from a person who claimed to be one of his grandchildren. This is slick, because the caller will wait for the person on the other end to divulge the grandchild’s name. “Oh is that you ____ “(fill in the blank). Once they have you hooked, they will tell you that they are in, say Canada, and tell you that they are in some sort of trouble with the law, and request money for bail and that you are to send this money via money order to some destination within this country (but not the US). This kind of scam is directed toward the elderly who are vulnerable to this kind of attack do to their possible lack of communication with these family members. My father-in-law contacted me and asked me where his grandchildren were and we concluded that they were safe and not in any trouble as stated by this con who had called. My suggestion, once you have determined that this is a con, and they will call you back with instruction or queries about the money, don’t confront them then, tell them that the money is on its way and they should wait for it at the predetermined destination agreed upon. They will have to wait till hell freezes over and you will have the satisfaction that they may be as inconvenienced as you were by this scam.

If you have any stories of you own you would like to share, or have a comment that is directly related to this blog post, please feel free to add your comment. I will post all genuine comments to this blog post.

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