Internet Scams 101 -- Attacking You Through Your E-mailWritten by Janette Blackwell
The Internet is filled with scams, and eventually they wind up in your e-mail box. The ingenuity of these people is astonishing. Their goal is usually to get you to click on an e-mail attachment, so they can infect your computer with a virus, a tracking cookie, and/or a trojan horse.
•COMPUTER VIRUSES strike fear into all our hearts. When a particularly vicious virus comes out, announcements are made on television and in newspapers. For a good discussion of computer viruses, go to http://computer.howstuffworks.com/virus.htm.
•A COOKIE can be perfectly aboveboard and even helpful. For example, when you visit Amazon.com, you get a cookie which enables their computer to recognize you when you return and to remember sort of thing you’re interested in. TRACKING COOKIES, on other hand, record places you go online and what links you click on, telling advertisers what type of ads should be aimed at you. It’s true, they won’t transmit a virus, but who wants an Internet bloodhound baying on their trail? Good anti-spyware will remove tracking cookies.
•A TROJAN HORSE pretends to be something it is not, such as an e-mail from a friend or something you’ve ordered. The text of e-mail may say, “Here is information you wanted.” Or, “Keep this as a secret between you and me.” Or, “You’ve just won our grand prize!” Anything to make you click on that attachment. Once you do, trojan horse takes over your computer. It can do any malicious thing it wants, from erasing files to changing your desktop. It then propagates by sending itself to other people in your address book. A good friend just had his Internet address list stolen, and I’ve been getting messages supposedly from him ever since. They all want me to click on an attachment to e-mail. I e-mailed asking him if he’d sent that message. He had not.
Even if you’re smart enough not to click on a trojan horse attachment yourself, one of friends on your address list may do so, your address will then be stolen, and off you go into underworld.
Once scammers get your e-mail address, they may use it to send malicious e-mails to thousands of people in your name. I usually discover this when I get “I’m out of office” automatic responder messages from people I never heard of. It’s frustrating, but I know it isn’t my fault.
Internet Scams 103 -- Stealing Your Credit InformationWritten by Janette Blackwell
Because my business takes me all over Internet, I have dubious honor of being on three e-mail sucker lists at one e-mail address and one more at another address. Which is good, because all three at one address send me same warnings: my eBay account has been frozen, ditto my PayPal, and an amazing variety of banks need me to update my records.
These people are all pretending to be someone we trust: a bank, PayPal, eBay. And when we are suckered into their setup, they empty our bank accounts and run up thousands of dollars on our credit cards.
Microsoft, Yahoo, and other Internet organizations are working on systems that will let us know whether sender is REALLY who they say they are. When this comes online, it will help get rid of some of worst black hats, though other types of scam may not be affected.
The people who pretend to be someone they are not are vicious. Yet, in a situation where I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, I laugh. And warn other people so they can laugh at them too, rather than be sucked into their scams.
Due to these scammers, I look forward to my e-mail. As I delete item after item, I enjoy fertility of their imaginations. One guy even has a sense of humor. (I think it’s a guy.) Today his name is Chattiest Q. Ulcerates. Yesterday he was Infiltrated G. Perseverence (giving a nice clue to his personality), and before that he was Twists V. Hemorrhaging (spelled correctly and another personality clue). I have no intention of clicking on anything he sends, but I smile as I delete him into oblivion.
These jokers are all serious about one thing: they want to steal your bank account number, social security number, and/or credit card information, and if one attempt doesn’t work, they’ll try another.
•Anti-scam rule 1: Scammers pretending to be someone they are not cannot harm you if you delete their e-mails without clicking on any of things they want you to click on.