Why you need to be careful what you click on
I was recently cleaning out my junk mail folder which had 2,645 messages in it. It had been about 3 weeks since I had cleaned it out, but that is how many SPAM and junk e-mails my junk e-mail filter had caught in that time. I would venture there was probably at least that many junk messages that were not caught over that same time frame.
I’m sure many of you reading this (hopefully, this e-mail didn’t get caught in your junk mail filter) face the same problem as I am describing. I guess we shouldn’t all feel so bad. There is a fellow named Jef Poskanzer who owns the domain of acme.com who was getting over 1,000,000 SPAM e-mails a day, before he managed to create some filters that knocked this number way down. Maybe my problem is not so bad.
Unfortunately, this can be more than a benign problem, as many of these unwanted e-mails contain harmful links that can contain malware, viruses, computer worms, and other malicious software. They are designed to either corrupt your computer or get you to enter sensitive information (phishing) or passwords that computer thieves may use to infiltrate your online accounts.
Recently, the spammers have really been getting creative with their e-mail attempts. The purpose of this blog is to describe some of the recent SPAM that is going around and to encourage you to be careful of it, even though it looks legitimate. Remember, your banks, utility companies, credit card companies, eBay, etc., are “NEVER” going to ask you to confirm account information.
Here are some of the more creative attempts I have been getting the last few weeks. Remember, do not ever click on these types of e-mails or enter any sensitive information to the sites. If you have a question, go to the actual company website, get the phone number and contact them directly.
As an Illinois resident, this was an easy one to write off as a phishing attempt. We don’t have EZ Pass, but rather I-Pass for automated highway toll paying. But, for those living in the East, the EZ Pass is the toll way system and this probably looked real. You can see it asks you to download an invoice, and this is where the malware or other viruses infect your system.
This is a real sneaky one that was going around earlier in the year. Apparently, a funeral home in Texas had its identity hacked as part of a worldwide scam sent out via e-mail. I remember receiving this one a few hundred times earlier in the year. If you clicked on the link giving more information you were directed to a foreign website where malicious software was automatically downloaded on your computer that could allow hackers to obtain your passwords and other sensitive information.
This one also made the rounds, but again, for Illinois residents it was an easy scam to spot because the utility company was P G & E (Pacific Gas & Electric) and not Nicor or Com-Ed. This one operated in the same way as the funeral home scam did by directing you to a malicious website.
There are many of these to go around ranging from Starbucks to Amazon to Wal-Mart to Applebee’s. That offers a free gift card either for taking a survey or for just clicking on the link. You probably know there is no free gift card and where this leads. Some of the giveaways are the awful spelling.
This is a tried and true scam that must be hugely successful because I have been seeing it for years, and I still see them. They are especially numerous around the holidays when people have a tendency to order more things online and are looking to track them. Of course, if you click on the Print Receipt you won’t get your receipt but you will receive a nice little “gift”.
FED EX & UPS PACKAGE DELIVERY SCAM
As I am writing this article, I decided to take a look to see what my SPAM filter had caught and here is a summary of what I found:
- I had 13 job offers from places like Amazon, Google and others making over $100k a year. Funny, I don’t remember interviewing for all those positions.
- There were 17 e-mails telling me that someone is conducting background checks on me and to click on the link to find out who is doing this. Tempting?
- 21 of the aforementioned gift card e-mails.
- 5 for the new “Genie Zip Bra”.
- 9 for getting natural cannabis. I guess I don’t even have to go to Colorado.
- I don’t know why, but at least 25 e-mails that claim to have disturbing photos of Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray. They must have done something really bad!
- 5 that want to buy my timeshare that I didn’t even know I had!
- 7 offering me Russian Brides. I wonder if my wife is getting ones for Russian husbands?
- And of course a plethora of other junk that never stops arriving.
So please be careful with any e-mail that you receive asking you to click on a link to get a gift card or check the status of a package. There will continue to be many, many more of these bogus e-mail’s that will make the rounds. They must be highly successful or we wouldn’t keep seeing them. Just don’t be one of the people that helps make these frauds successful. Also, make sure you have some kind of virus and malware protection software as well as a firewall to help protect your computer and your sensitive information.
If you want to get an update on some of the known e-mail fraud and phishing campaigns going on, take a look at snopes.com. Here, you can also check out all the outrageous e-mails friends and relatives may send you or that you see on Facebook and determine if they are real or not before passing them along to others.