Almost scammed via e-mail
A friend of mine asked an acquaintance, “ Do you have e-mail?” The person responded, “ E-mail? Me partner jus’ died, b’y, and I don’t even have a shemail!”
To use an overworked phrase, I’d be lost without e-mail.
Once upon a time, I refused to set up an e-mail account, because of my ungodly fear of computers. I continued to use the triedandproved snail mail, phone and fax. Eventually, giving in to the taunts of family and friends, who had already proved the benefits of e-mail, I grudgingly surrendered myself to the other. Now I myself taunt others who shy away from e-mail use.
I’ve never regretted my decision to indulge. Mind you, I’m often frustrated. I hate junk e-mails, which only clutter my inbox and pose serious virus threats. In any given day, I hit the delete button countless times. Unfortunately, in the process, I sometimes delete legitimate e-mails.
An e-mail user receives all sorts of unsolicited invitations. One I received is a classic. “ Burtonj,” an unknown sender wrote me, “ would you like bigger breasts?” Let me think. . . not interested!
At times, I receive e-mails I don’t quite know what to do with. For example, I recently received one, evidently from a friend, whose name was affixed at the end.
“ I’m sorry,” he began, “I didn’t inform you about my traveling to England for a business trip.” “ Well, that’s possible,” I reasoned with myself. “ He’s a clergyman after all, so he may have had to attend a conference in the United Kingdom.”
What followed made me sit up and take notice. “ Right now,” my friend continued, “ I’m stranded here and need to get back to Newfoundland without delay.”
“ Stranded in England?” I mused. “ Wow, that’s bad!”
My concern level peaked when I read, “ I need a favour from you because I was robbed on my way back to my hotel suite. The robbers got away with my bag containing my wallet, phone, flight ticket and other valuables.
“ I’d like you to lend me $ 3,500 in US Dollars, or any amount you can afford, as half bread is better than none, so I can sort out my hotel bills and get myself back home. . . .
“ I was told the fastest and safest way to receive money in seconds is through Western Union (since that’s what works here). So, if you can be of help, send the money by using the details below. . . .”
To his “credit,” my friend promised to pay me back, “ with an extra $1,000 in US Dollars,” as soon as he arrived back on The Rock. “ Not a bad deal,” I thought.
I did a double take. “ It could be a legitimate appeal from my friend. If I do nothing, he may face further problems.”
Suddenly, my never-far-below-thesurface cynicism kicked in with a vengeance. “ There’s something wrong with this picture,” I concluded.
I immediately researched the incident online, only to discover that a scammer had compromised my e-mail account and used a social engineering scam to try and swindle me out of a lot of money. The hacker had used my account to e-mail my contacts.
E-mail scams are rife. A major problem with this one, beside the fact that it’s entirely bogus, is that the sense of urgency has the potential of causing the recipient to fail to validate the claim, thereby increasing the likelihood of falling for the scam.
The truth is, this scam alone has successfully swindled consumers out of multiplied thousands of dollars.
Inquiring minds want to know how hackers operate. I know virtually nothing about how computers work. However, Internet research helps. This scam operates on two levels. First, the scammer hacks into random webmail accounts. Many bogus emails are sent out, each one trying to fool users into giving their webmail account login details. Sadly, some recipients fall for the ruse and provide their webmail details to the scammer, who then logs in to the compromised accounts.
Second, the scammer sends out, to all the e-mail addresses in the account’s address book, the desperate email cited above. If only one recipient responds positively, the scam has worked spectacularly.
Perhaps caveat emptor is the operative caution here. Let the buyer beware. If you buy into e-mail use, then be on guard against the scammers, who relentlessly try and hack into your account for nefarious reasons.
Specifically, be wary of e-mails that request money, even if such notices appear to originate with a friend.
Make your account details as secure as possible.
Be wary of webmail phishing scams, designed to steal webamil account details.
If you have multiple webmail accounts, check each one regularly to ensure they have not been compromised.
Finally, let your friends know their e-mail accounts have indeed been compromised.