Saturday, September 27, 2008

Email Scams

My spam filter catches dozens of these a day, but a few always manage to get through. Be aware of the scams and don't click on links in emails from senders you don't know! Here are a few popular scams:

F.B.I. Vs. Facebook
Yes, there are more important matters to worry about than Facebook's recent redesign -- namely, an e-mail with a message that says "F.B.I. vs. Facebook," which includes a link to download the Storm Worm botnet, that nasty piece of malware that connects infected computers and uses them for identity theft and spam. Make sure not to open any e-mail with this subject and make sure to delete it immediately. If you do accidentally open this e-mail, don't click on any lnks within it and delete it immediately. Lastly, before you open another e-mail, make sure you have some sort of anti-virus software installed.

CNN and MSNBC Alerts
Rather than stick with sensational headlines, swindlers are now manufacturing fake custom alerts from CNN and MSNBC that looks pretty legit at first glance. The subject line says "CNN Alerts: My Custom Alert." If you click on "Full story," you'll be taken to a video player that tells you to download Adobe Flash, but instead turns out to be malware. The easiest solution is to delete it without opening it, but MXLab's Web site has more information on dealing with this nasty bit of e-mail.

The Hitman
Unfortunately, this old con is still going on, only with slight differences. The FBI sent out another warning a month ago, saying that now recipients are being threatened with kidnapping (instead of just killing), and that the new e-mails contain more personal information that fool some people into thinking it's a valid threat. The best solution to this e-mail? Just ignore it, but the FBI also encourages people to report any threatening messages they receive, which you can do via the FBI's Internet Crime Center.

Hurricane Charities
Sadly, disasters encourage scammers to prey on the charitable. Naturally, recent hurricanes Ike and Gustav spawned dozens of fake e-mails designed to rip you off. Pretty much every standard scheme has been repurposed for these storms.

Airline Tickets
If you're not flying anywhere, be on the lookout for any ticket messages from airlines, including major ones like JetBlue, Frontier Airlines, and US Airways. E-mails are going out saying that your credit card has been used to purchase a ticket contained in an attached Zip file. If you open it the file, it downloads malware that can be used to steal your personal information. Should you receive an e-mail like this, delete it immediately and contact authorities if you receive it or have already opened it.

Search Engine Optimization Offers
Whether it's business or personal, having your own Web site puts you at risk from scammers. Currently, companies offering better search results for your site are offering their services for a fee, although there's no real company. Like any unsolicited e-mails, don't respond to them without looking into the business first and don't give away anything personal before you find out if it's legit. In this case, the lack of company information and bizarre e-mail addresses are the most telling signs that it's phony Search Engine Optimization Offers

Holiday E-mails
Major holidays means it's time to be wary of any greeting cards from unknown senders. Many of these e-mails provide a link to see a message or download some sort of file, but really all you're doing is downloading the Storm Worm. Be sure to keep a lookout for the creepy skeleton e-card with Halloween right around the corner.

Time Warner Cable Threat
If you're a customer of Time Warner (which is the parent company of AOL and, outages might not be your only problem. Clients in San Antonio, Texas, all of whom used the Road Runner Internet service, recently received e-mails sent with the company's name and logo asking them to provide account information or they would lose service. Time Warner says that people receiving these messages should delete them and contact the company.

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