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How To Avoid Internet Scams
Common internet scams like e-mail, phishing, pharming and keylogging and how to avoid them with our list
The web is a great tool and as the Find Extra Work site explains, it is a great way to earn money. It can really change people's lives for the better. Though Find Extra Work will always endeavour to only list reputable companies there are, sadly, people and organisations who will try and scam and fleece you out of your money. Others may try and gain data from your computer or gain access to your records or even use your e-mail address to send large spam mailings. Fortunately they are in the minority and there are steps you can take to limit and prevent scammers. Before we discuss how to avoid internet scams there are several ways that can help you beat the scammers and surf the net safely.
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1. Think before you part with any personal information such as your date of birth, telephone, etc. Question why this person or organisation needs this and what are they planning to do with it. Survey sites may need your date of birth to match you to age groups - but someone who has sent you with a "bargain offer" certainly doesn't need your bank account numbers - well he or she does if you don't mind the person clearing your account!
2. If an offer looks too good to be true it probably is - no stranger is going to give you £1000 for a few minutes work.
3. A website that looks unprofessional, has spelling and grammar errors, lots of pop ups, banners and downloads software onto your PC probably is not legit and you would be advised not to fill in any personal registration forms or click yes to the download. You might be advised to perform a full anti-virus and spyware scan if you have inadvertently gone to such as a website.
4. Please do not pay a fee to receive work at home information, unless it is a starter pack from a reputable company like Kleeneze. Some websites will reveal how they make £1000s a week from surveys - course they do - but only from the extortionate charges they make to people wishing to learn how to work from home. Others may ask you to ring for more help - these are usually at premium rates and will only keep you waiting as they talk on and on without really giving out anything - but as the clock ticks on so does your telephone bill and their income. Instead use that which is free on the Find Extra Work website and the other many reputable ones that are happy to share for free.
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5. Don't be afraid! For every evil greedy scammer there will be thousands of honestly run websites with webmasters who want to provide a valuable service. Just try and avoid those listed below:
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Scammers will use automatic robots to scour addresses. They will harvest these and buy bulk lists. They will then send you offers such as Viagra tablets, have attachments with obscene pictures or ask you to click on links that take you to objectionable websites.
You can reduce the incidence of these by cloaking your address on any webpages you write using ASCII code or using a reputable encryption coder that will automatically do this for you. If you write to forums and newsgroups you should put a spam trap onto your address and instruct others how to remove this to reply to you. This will dupe the robot who look for the @ sign in a forum or newsgroup.
Do try and avoid opening attachments from people you do not know or from dubious sources - no matter how intrigued you are - they are most likely to be e-mail scams. Such attachments can contain virus and spyware that will search your computer and harvest your address book or credit cards. Use an anti virus programme such as the free AVG software. Run this in conjunction with a firewall like the free Zone Alarm programme. You can also pre-check them with a software package like mailwasher that will alert you to possible viruses, scammers and dubious senders. You can then block, bounce them back to the sender or delete them. Such programmes will remember your settings and do the same thing in the future.
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Phishing is the act of someone pretending to be a company or website in the hope that they will gain your log in or account details. They are common and you should try to avoid this by being careful when replying to e-mails from your bank or building society. Some act on fear and try and convince you that there has been a security leak and asks you to use the enclosed link to go to the website to change your password. If you do they will be able to use your existing password to access your account.
Other common internet email scams include pretending to be from Ebay or Paypal. They often look exactly like the branding of the company with the same colours. Most are written abroad and often have spelling and terrible grammar mistakes so can be spotted. Others may try and convince you that your account is under threat, there has been a technical problem or that your account has been lost and you may never have had an account with them.
Don't be tempted to click any links on such a Phish e-mail, besides can you really imagine Barclays, BT or other reputable companies losing your account! Ebay and other sites and companies have a specific account you can forward such attacks to so that they can try and trace the criminals.
There are also seasonal attempts. For example at times of tax returns such as January, April and September phishers will pretend to be from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) asking to update your tax returns. They will commonly try to get your bank account and or credit card. A similar problem exists in the US with Internal Revenue Service.
It can be traced back to the earliest years of the web as far back as 1996. Hackers attempted to gain access to AOL accounts by e-mailing members asking them to confirm their accounts. Sadly many replied thinking they were genuinely from AOL. Those who replied entered their account numbers and passwords and these were obtained by the criminals and accounts were hijacked. Sadly criminals expanded on their success and have continued to phish attack many users over the years to obtain account and credit cards to spend innocent people's money and gain access to steal identities.
Phishers are patient and will specifically target users such as those who use dating, recruitment or personal webspaces like Facebook and twitter. They will study a person's profile and use this to build up information about a specific person - you'd be surprised how much such users give away on public forums and public websites. A date of birth and address can easily be obtained and in the hands of a criminal can be dangerous.
SMiShing is a new form of phishing but by SMS (Short Message System) on mobile telephones. These text messages can contain those as discussed in the section above. The intend is the same - to get you to visit a scam website and to obtain your personal info and passwords. This new scam is on the rise and takes advantage of people who think that their mobile phone is free from viruses. SMiShing will increase as more people get web enabled mobiles.
Pharming is where you will happily be using the internet and may go to your favourite shop and log in and go shopping. Unfortunately a pharmer criminal will have put a piece of hidden software onto your computer and instead you could be taken to a site that looks similar but will be run by criminals. They will take and use your credit card numbers. Avoid this by running an adware and anti-virus scan before shopping. At the website look for the security padlock at the bottom of your screen and the https address. Look at the website carefully and if it looks odd then it could be a pharming site. Click off the site and run the scans again.
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Keylogging also involves hidden software on your PC. This time the nasty software records every click of your mouse and typing of your keyboard. Criminals use these online scams to gain access to your passwords, credit card details. Avoid these by running anti virus and anti spyware scans. Keep your firewall up to date. Do update your anti virus and spyware programmes at least weekly.
There are some legal activities and software such as special programmes that parent scan buy to monitor their children's computer activity or employers to monitor their employees.
The Nigerian Scam is a fake money transfer internet scam that should be avoided and though old still tops many an internet scams list. People have lost life savings and have had thousands of pounds taken from their bank account. These organised criminals will e-mail you, often pretending to be a member of the Royal Family or an Ambassador from an African Country, asking for help. The long e-mail will talk about being deposed, family members being murdered and having to flee the country for fear of their lives. They then ask you for help to move their wealth and money. They will promise to give you a set fee, often in tens of thousands, or a percentage of money moved. They then ask you for your details so that they can safely move their money into your account. Sadly they never have - but have removed money from people's accounts. These criminals don't individually target people. Instead they use bulk e-mail lists and hope that one person from millions will be duped. Sadly people still fall for these. Don't be tempted to read these, open attachments or reply to the e-mails. Delete them and add them to your blocked sender list.
A new type involves a person giving their victim a stolen cheque for a larger amount than they need. The victim innocently deposits this and sends the criminal a refund for the extra amount. The criminal asks for this by bank transfer such as through the Western Union International Transfer. The criminal gets their hand on the victim's cash and the cheque usually bounces and proves to be stolen so the victim never gets any money, only loses their own. These often have a double effect. For example criminals commonly target people renting accommodation. If the deposit is say £1000 they will send a cheque for £2000, claiming to have made a mistake. They tell the landlord to cash the cheque and ask the bank to send the overpaid £1000 by instant transfer. This happens immediately but the cheque takes up to 5 days to process and by this time the criminal is often untraceable. The landlord also looses the income they could have earned from a reputable tenant.
The same scams on the internet has been seen on auction sites like Ebay where buyers will send the seller the extra money and repeat the process. Ebay now warn their users to not use such transfers and to use Paypal or to wait for a cheque to clear before offering a refund and sending items.
The best advice is to think why has someone sent me a cheque for too large an amount and why can't they simply send me a replacement cheque.
Fake Lottery Win
A modern derivative is the fake lottery win. This is usually a foreign lottery win; though we have seen some UK fake lotteries creep in. It goes to say that if you can't remember entering a lottery in Florida then you probably have not won! All these criminals want is your data - not to pay in your lottery win, but to remove as much of your money as they can before being caught or found out. Play safe and just do the Health Lottery or the National Lottery - you could win and safely get your money and a share of your ticket price goes to good causes and charities.
Some criminals do the same for competitions and scratchcards. It can extend to having to pay an "import tax" or "administration fee" to get your "prize". Holiday prizes are a common ruse. Others ask you to ring a premium rate telephone to claim a prize. Such calls can cost about £1.50 a minute and take some time to complete. You may never receive a prize. Enter competitions at reputable websites and favourite stores - we have won plenty of these free prizes and have received them.
We earn a good income from surveys for cash. We only join reputable UK companies. Sadly there are some who will promise you rewards and entice you to complete a telephone or website survey. As the questions progress they will discretely slip in questions that make you reveal personal info like your date of birth and even passwords. Please let your alarm bells ring and do not give out. Most survey companies reward you with vouchers and cheques so do not need these. Do surveys to make extra cash - but just stick to those companies you trust and always be careful of those who phone you. Ask where they got your info from and don't be afraid to ask for a written survey or to say no.
Fraudsters still continue to perform the matrix scheme. This works (or rather does not) as the pyramid selling seen in the 70s and 80s. It claims that you build a downline and once you have buyers you get a financial reward. All that realistically happens is that those hoping to be rewarded from such a matrix scheme will help the fraudster profit. Rarely do people get rewarded. Instead they lose friends and family because they have encouraged them to join the scheme and buy products or use services they don't really need and do so in the false hope of getting a reward. Do not be tempted to join such schemes and please do report them to the Office of Fair Trading. There is more about this type of scam on the Pyramid Schemes page.
False Bank Manager
Criminals can claim to be from your bank and have identified that there has been a security breech on your account or that you credit card has been falsely used. They sound reassuring and will gain your trust by saying things like not to worry we are investigating the incident and you will not lose any money. Sadly you will if you fall for this and reveal your password. This is the purpose of the criminal pretending to be your provider. They will ask you to reveal this for security purposes. Do question them and ask them for proof of identity. Tell them you will ring them back. Use the telephone number on your statements. If it is a genuine phone call from them they will not mind you doing this.
Rogue Telephone Dialler
The rogue telephone dialler is a nasty piece of software that downloads onto your computer and allows criminals to use your telephone line to dial internationally from their phone. They are not normally traced and you end up with an expensive telephone bill for a phone call or calls that you have not made. It only affects dial up users and not broadband users who have a fixed dialling number. The software hijacks the affected PC dial up connection when the computer is not being used and secretly redirects to premium rates that are run by criminals. They get paid by telephone providers for the cost of each call. Ofcom, ICSTIS and other telephone watchdogs are trying to introduce new laws to stop this type of criminal activity. Dial up users can o some way to protect themselves by using a virus scanner, firewall and adware programs. It is also recommended to ask your telephone providers to make a bar on any premium rate or international calls.
Pump and Dump Scams
Pump and dump scammers are a bit like e-mail spammers but they will send a specific message bragging and building up a product such as a really obscure share in an unknown company. Before they send this malicious e-mail they will buy lots of the shares at a low cost. They will then pump up the share value by telling as many people as possible, usually via spam e-mail, that this is a great share to buy and will increase in value soon. People innocently buy as many of the shares as they can get or as they can afford and this artificially inflates the value of the shares. The pump and dump scammer then sells all his shares at a huge profit because the share price has artificially gone up and new shares are still in demand. Please do not reply or buy shares from someone who e-mails you out of the blue. Buy your shares from a reputable financial company.
Beware of horse racing syndicate betting scams that ask for your help to place bets and so called guaranteed accumulator bets that an individual or company may approach you to place on their behalf. They will usually state that they are unable to place bets at bookmakers and online betting websites because they are so well known for winning that they have been banned or that they own too many racehorses themselves and cannot place legal bets.
These rogues falsely claim to have a winning formulae that guarantees that each horse race or similar sporting bet will be won by their choice of horse. They ask you to place the bets on their behalf, but in your name, at your local bookmakers or at certain online bookmakers. In return for learning their secret winning formulae they promise to let you keep a percentage of the winnings (usually 10%) and a reimbursement fee of your bet deposit or stake and give you more winning tips for the next horse race or sports event. They will usually ask for your bank or building society account details so that they can pay this straight into your account. Well they say that but the reality is so that they can steal more of your money direct from your account.
The con involves you using your own money, often life savings in the thousands of pounds, and placing your own money on these bets. This is quite a gamble in many ways. The bets may well lose and with it goes your life savings. The criminal behind these will not refund your money and you will probably not even be able to contact him or her or even trace the person behind the betting scam.
Even if you do win you will loose eventually. In the rare event that you win the criminal will soon be at your home or send one of their colleagues, usually a heavily built man, because they took the precaution of taking name, address, telephone number and anything else you freely gave away. They will be really friendly though whilst you are winning and take away their cut of the winning bets, in cash, and encourage you to keep trying their winning betting formulae. If you win again they remain your best friend because they are getting a percentage of your winnings - without ever having spent a penny of their own money or taking any risks. If by some rare chance you do keep winning you may be tempted to bet more and more until sadly you lose everything and your new friends will not be seen again and their tracks will be well covered. Even the best police detective will probably not be able to trace the people behind them.
Our advice - tear up the letter, hang up the phone or delete the e-mail - do not let these criminals draw you in with false claims of profit and winning bets or risk free betting. The only true winners are the bookmakers and the criminals.
Premium Telephone Number Scam
Some scammers use an 070 in their scam correspondence such as e-mails and will encourage you to ring. These are often high premium rate telephone numbers from which the scammers make money instantly from you because the call charges to you are instant and very, very costly. Whilst callers are on the telephone the person on the other end will befriend them and try and discretely get data such as the callers name, address and date of birth.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and Telecoms Watchdog Ofcom have been aware that those beginning with the dial code 070 are using by scammers, especially phishing gangs because they appear to the caller as if they are a mobile phone. The phisher will often send an e-mail pretending to be from the bank or building society and when the caller telephones they will pretend that they are the telephone exchange and ask the caller to confirm their personal details.
Ofcom will be closing these to shut down this con which can be purchased and operated from anywhere in the world and fall out with the laws of the UK.
Philfing or philfy is a term that became popular in 2007 and refers to Purposely Hiding what I'm Looking For (PHILF). Philfing is keeping a customer on a shopping website until they reach the very last stage of buying. Then hidden charges are secretly revealed. Such charges may be sites that say delivery is free but charge a packing and handling fee or a web site that does not make it clear that goods are at prices that do not include Valued Added Tax (VAT). Many will have wasted their time on such sites and log off and look for a clearer more reputable shopping website after such incidences of philfing, others will pay the additional charges, some without realising the extra cost.
Avoid the risk of someone using your info from your statements by shredding these and other forms with your personal details. This can then be safely thrown out, or better still add the shreddings to your compost bin.
Go to the official Microsoft website and download the latest software security patches. It is easier to click the keep me updated automatically link. Microsoft will then update your PC as new software becomes available. The patch will usually download as you continue working or browsing the net.
Do not let all this put you off home working and using the internet to help you make more money. Avoid those above and you will be able to surf happily and use the internet to earn money.
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