There are a number of scams being practised by criminals all over the world. The most common phone and email scams have a few things in common.
- Scammers play on either the victims fear or greed. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Many email messages from scammers start with lines like:”I heard about your sterling reputation’ when they don’t actually know your name unless you reveal it on the phone.
- A common email scam is a message claiming to be from your financial institution(bank or stock broker) or email provider. This type of message claims that there is a problem with your account and that you need to login to your account (using the links in the scam message) and resolve the problem. Typically, this message, which claims to come from an institution or business with whom you have an account, doesn’t contain your name or account number (or an identifying portion of the account number). The login links in the message do not go to the correct website but instead lead to a website which has been setup to impersonate the legitimate one and steal your login details if you are foolish enough to enter them. Check the address bar in your web browser to make sure you are looking at the legitimate website.
- A common phone scam is a call from someone (usually with a strong accent) claiming to work for Microsoft. The caller goes on to say that a problem has been detected with your computer and that, if you give them remote control of your computer, it can be fixed. The cost of this help turns out to be a few hundred dollars, they then proceed to remove your existing computer security (antivirus, etc.) and then install some security software from a fictitious company, and if you come to your senses and refuse to pay, they encrypt or delete all of the data on your computer until you pay up. The thing is, Microsoft does NOT make cold calls to fix your computer – they will only call or help if they already have your money. It is not possible (legally) to trace a phone number from a malfunctioning computer without access to federal agency resources or with cooperation from your Internet Service Provider. If you do decide to cut off remote access under these circumstances, unplug the network cable or pull the power from the wifi.
In general, some basic guidelines can save you from being scammed in the majority of cases.
- The best way to prevent being scammed is too listen to your common sense when it tells you something is not right about an email or phone call. Avoid being rushed into doing something unwise like giving a stranger your bank or credit card details or email password. You are much safer to only communicate with your bank or ISP with phone calls you initiate (using a verifiable contact number for that institution) or callbacks in response to your calls.
- Never click on login links in an email message to login to your account. Always login to your account (bank, stock portfolio, etc.) the usual way so you can be sure it is the genuine website. The exception to this is when you first open an account there may be a couple of emails to get you started with using that account – links in this type of message can usually be trusted.