Scam of the day – March 29, 2012 – RockYou Game site identity theft risk

Recently the operators of the online children’s game site RockYou settled a claim of the Federal Trade Commission that it did not properly protect the privacy of its users and failed to use proper security resulting in the site being hacked and the information on 32 million users being compromised.  This particular website by being aimed at children also violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protect Act Rule or COPPA which requires website operators to notify parents and get their consent before collecting, using or disclosing personal information from people under the age of 13.

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You are only as safe from identity theft as the places that hold your information.  Try to limit the places that have your personal information and find out what security measures they take, such as encryption of the data.  You should also educate your children about the dangers of downloading free music or games because that is a common way that scammers install keystroke logging malware on your computer that can steal all of the information from your computer.

Scam of the day – March 25, 2012 – Botnets

Recently the Federal Trade Commission announced a new effort to combat botnets.  Botnets occur when a scammer is able to install malware on your computer turning it into a robot that can steal your information or use your computer to send out spam emails or spread viruses and other malware.  The malware that turns your computer into a botnet is installed on your computer when you unwittingly download the malware.

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Never click on links for “free” music or games from a source that you are not absolutely sure is secure.  This is a common source of the malware that turns your computer into a botnet.  Keep your security software up to date, use strong passwords, never turn off your firewall and be very cautious when using thumbdrives.  This is another area where infections occur.

Scam of the day – March 22, 2012 – Windows security scam

A new scam currently turning up involves people receiving a telephone call from someone purporting to be from Microsoft and that there is a dangerous computer virus infecting the Windows operating system on the person’s computer.  The caller then asks the person to log on to their computer and go through  with the scammer the steps necessary to clear the computer of the threat.  The threat, of course, comes from the caller who uses the call to gather personal information to turn the person receiving the call into a victim of identity theft.

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Microsoft would not call you.  Never give personal information over the phone to someone you have not called or are not completely sure who they are.  As for your Windows software, make sure it is always up to date.  Automatic regular updating is best.  Also make sure that you have legitimate security software on your computer and up to date to protect you from viruses, spyware and malware.

Scam of the day – March 19, 2012 – New iPad scam

Once again, the scammers are there when anything new catches the public’s attention.  This time it involves Apple’s release of the newest iPad, which, once again is exciting the buying public.  But why buy a new iPad when you can get one for free.  Turning up in emails and on Facebook pages are offers of free iPads in exchange for merely testing the iPad.  If you click to the link to claim your iPad, you find yourself in the same danger as when you fall for any of these type of lures by scammers.  You may be led to a survey, which even if you take it, does not end up with your getting the promised iPad, but does provide a commission payment to the scammer.  More seriously, you may provide information that could put you in danger of identity theft or even worse, you could have unwittingly, by clicking on the link, downloaded a keystroke logging malware program on to your computer that can access all of the information on your computer, such as passwords, Social Security numbers and other information that can turn you into a victim of identity theft.

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Many of the free iPad scams actually refer to the device as an ” iPad 3″ which is not the official name of the device, so you can be sure that the offer is a scam.  However, whenever you see any of these offers, rest assured, they are scams.  Apple does not do these kind of promotions.  If you still are not convinced when you see this kind of offer, call Apple.

Scam of the day – March 15, 2012 – Pinterest Scams

The name “Pinterest” may not be familiar to you, but it will be.  It is a new social media site by which people are able to share or “pin” images of their business logos, business coupons and discounts for marketing purposes to a virtual bulletin board.  Viewers can then either indicate that they like the image, comment on the image or re-pin it to their own boards.  Pinterest is becoming increasingly popular and as more people are drawn to the site, so are scammers who are using phony postings that are easy to make in an effort to lure victims into being scammed by being routed to the same surveys that the scammer gets paid for in similar Facebooks scams or that trick you into providing personal information used for identity theft or, most seriously, install keystroke logging malware software that harvests all of your computer’s information and makes you a victim of identity theft.

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As always, if the offer looks too good to be true, it probably is, so a bit of skepticism is in order.  If you are routed to a survey, don’t take it and make sure that you do not enter personal information that could lead ot your identity being stolen.  Finally, a bit of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so make sure that your computer security software is up to date and that it includes antiphishing capabilities.  Phishing is when you are directed by a scammer to a phony website that purports to be a legitimate website.

 

Scam of the day – March 10, 2012 – Latest Facebook Scam

The answer to the question about why scammers are drawn to Facebook is the same answer to the question posed to a bank robber as to why he robbed banks.  Because that is where the money or in the case of Facebook, the victims and money can be found.  The latest Facebook scam follows a familiar pattern.  You see a posting on your page that attracts your attention, such as the one now circulating that says “OMG I just hate RIHANNA after watching this video.”  The posting may look like it has come from one of your friends, but in fact, your friend’s Facebook account has probably been hijacked.  In this particular scam, you are told to share the link before you can see the video.  This is a tip off that it is a scam and if you do share it, you become part of the problem by sending it to unsuspecting friends.  If you click on the link, two things can happen, you may be led to a survey that you must complete before being able to see the video.  This is because the scammers are using this lure to earn themselves a commission for everyone that takes the survey.  However, the more sinister thing that can happen if you click on the link is that you may unwittingly be downloading a key stroke logging malware program that will steal all of your personal information, such as credit card numbers and passwords from your computer and make you a victim of identity theft.  Either way, after you have clicked on the link, you never see the promised, non-existent video.

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These types of scams can easily be avoided with a little skepticism and some fact checking.  Don’t trust postings even if they appear to come from your friends.  Never click on a link unless you are absolutely sure as to its source and even then, you may have a friend who doesn’t realize they are passing along a scam.  Independently check out online the particular item before you even consider clicking on to it.

Scam of the day – March 6, 2012 – Walmart gift card scam

This is the most recent variation of a familiar scam in which you receive an email or a text message telling you that you are lucky enough to have just won a $1,000 Walmart gift card.  I have received this very scam just yesterday with many other people receiving these over the past couple of days.  You can expect this and similar gift card scams to proliferate.  In the message, you are instructed to go to a link to enter your winning code number to claim your prize.  Never go to a link that you are not absolutely positively sure is legitimate.  In this particular scam, if you click on the link, you will only succeed in downloading a key stroke logging malware program that will read all of the information on your smart phone or computer that can steal from your computer or smart phone all of your personal information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, your Social Security number and more leading to a serious case of identity theft.

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Walmart does not do these type of promotions, so if you receive a text message purporting to be from Walmart regarding this type of promotion or contest, you can be sure it is a phony.  The old adage is true; if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  If you have any thoughts that the contest or promotion might be legitimate, call the company at a number that you know is correct to find out the truth.

What is Malware?

Malware is the term for malicious software that you unwittingly download on your computer when you click on links in emails from scammers or fall prey to phishing and download the program from a phony website to which you were lured in the belief that it was a legitimate website.

One of the most common and dangerous types of malware is the keystroke logging program which is often referred to as a Trojan horse.  Once this malware is installed on your computer, the scammer is able to access all of the information on your computer and can provide the scammer with access to your bank accounts, credit cards, brokerage accounts or any other information that is contained on your computer.

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Never click on links unless you are absolutely sure it is legitimate.  Also make sure you have an operating firewall on your computer and your computer security software is up to date.