Online Security Part 12 – General Scams

If the wide variety of threats from malware, weak passwords, public Wifi, and mobile security weren’t enough, there are now scammers taking advantage of people by offering personalized service. For example, while ransomware was discussed in Part 2, some crooks distribute malware that includes a “tech support” number to call. Other criminals call users proactively, especially targeting the elderly and non-tech savvy, offering “free” support. This support includes stealing credit card numbers and installing additional malware at no extra charge. By the way, “Windows technical support” is never going to call with a warning about a virus!

“Social engineering” scams are not limited to malware. Here is a short list of the worst ones lately (and they’re changing all the time):

  • Job Offer Scams – A $75k / year job working from home based on an email interview! Wow! Oh, but they need $472 to cover the cost of (fill in the blank) or they need your banking information to setup direct deposit.
  • Reshipping Scams – Getting paid to reship products, but the goods are stolen and the payment never arrives.
  • Payment / Overpayment Scams – That ugly velvet painting of Elvis sold online for $50! But the stupid buyer accidentally sent you a check for $500… “Please refund the balance. Here’s my Western Union account.” When you refund the overpayment, they reverse the original payment.
  • Shipping Scams – A “valuable package” is stuck in customs, just send $100 to “release it.” PayPal has a whole page of their FAQ devoted to these crazy schemes.
  • Friend Help Scams – If a 90 year old relative is stuck in Venezuela and needs $500 to get home, that’s probably a hacked email account.
  • Mystery Shoppers, Free Vacations and All “Too Good to Be True” Scams – If it sounds too good to be true, then it is.
  • Technical Support Scams – Your browser cannot tell that you have a virus. It can however tell you that you have visited a “malicious site.” That is a legitimate warning.
  • App Store Scams – Signing up for a free trial of X triggers a prompt to subscribe. Tap the button to approve it by mistake and… “You will pay $99.99 for a 7-day subscription starting Jun 9, 2017.”

By the way, Robocallers are at the core of many of the scams above. I’ve started using Nomorobo, which is a great service to prevent Robocallers from getting through (there are many other options though).

Despite the length of this post, almost all of these scams boil down to using common sense: please send $500 to this Western Union account and you too can own the Brooklyn Bridge! LOL