Scam of the day – October 3, 2016 – Latest edition of most dangerous celebrities on the Internet

Each year, computer security company, McAfee releases a list of the most dangerous celebrities on the Internet.  These are people whose popularity is exploited by identity thieves and hackers who lure unsuspecting people through links in emails, social media and text messages relating to these celebrities to malware filled websites where they unknowingly download ransomware or keystroke logging malware that enables the identity thieves to steal all of the personal information from the victim’s computer, laptop, smartphone or other electronic device and use that information to make the person a victim of identity theft.  This year comedian Amy Schumer tops the list followed by Justin Bieber, Carson Daly, Will Smith, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Chris Hardwick, Daniel Tosh, Selena Gomez and Kesha.

TIPS

It is important to remember that merely because a website turns up high on a Google search does not mean that it is legitimate.  Google doesn’t check out websites for legitimacy in ranking sites.  The ranking is done by secret algorithms that some identity thieves are adept at manipulating.  Also, as I constantly warn you, never click on links or download attachments unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate.  Merely because it appears that a friend is passing them on to you does not make them legitimate.  As for celebrity videos and photos, you should have a healthy mistrust of websites with which you are not entirely familiar.  For gossip, www.tmz.com is a good place to go.  They always have the latest gossip and they are legitimate.  Finally make sure that you keep all of your electronic devices secure with anti-malware and anti-virus software and keep your security software current with the latest security patches.

Scam of the day – August 13, 2014 – Robin Williams death scams

You can always count on scammers and identity thieves to capitalize on every tragic event that captures the public’s imagination.  Celebrity deaths seem to be of particular interest to many people.  Following the deaths of celebrities in recent years such as Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse and Paul Walker, scammers and identity thieves set up scams and identity theft schemes to take advantage of the curiosity of the public about the deaths of these celebrities.  The sad passing of Robin Williams by suicide is bringing new scams and identity theft schemes.   Some of these scams  start with a post on your Facebook page, which often can appear to come from someone you know, when in fact, it is really from an identity thief who hacked into the Facebook account of a friend of yours.  The post provides a link to be able to view photographs of Robin Williams purported to be police photographs that have not appeared in the news.  Unfortunately, if you fall for this bait by clicking on the link, one of two things can happen, both of which are bad.  In one scam, you are led to a survey that you need to complete before you can view the video. In fact, there is no such video and by providing the survey information, you have enabled the scammer to get paid by advertisers for collecting completed surveys.  However, the problem is worse because by completing the survey, you have turned over valuable information to a scammer who can use that information to target you for phishing and identity theft threats.  Even worse though in another variation of this scam is when click on the link and unwittingly download a keystroke logging malware program that will steal all of the information from your computer including credit card numbers, passwords and bank account information and use that information to make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

Remember my mantra, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone.”  Merely because a post on your Facebook page appears to come from someone you trust is no reason to consider it reliable.    The posting could be merely from someone who has hacked your friend’s Facebook account.  Other times, the posting may indeed be from your real friend, however, that real friend may unwittingly be passing on tainted links that they have received.    For news matters, you should only rely on legitimate news sources, such as the websites of the major network news stations such as CNN.  In matters such as rare celebrity footage, you should limit your sources to only those that you know are legitimate and can trust such as www.tmz.com.  If it isn’t on TMZ, then it doesn’t really exist.  It is a scam.  Also, make sure that you keep your anti-malware software up to date with the latest security patches.

Scam of the day – January 19, 2014 – Guccifer

What do Steve Martin, Colin Powell, George W. Bush, John Dean, Mariel Hemingway, Lorne Michaels, Carl Bernstein, Rupert Everett, Eric Idle, Whoopi Goldberg and Julian Fellowes the writer of “Downton Abbey” have in common?  All have had their email hacked by the legendary hacker who calls himself “Guccifer.”  Guccifer has not exploited his hacking targets for financial gain although the information he obtained would allow him to do so.  Rather his goals, more often appear to be to embarrass his victims and shake the world up a bit.  Through hacking of his victims’ email accounts he has gained access to and made public the final episode of Downton Abbey, months before it was aired.  He has made public embarrassing information he obtained through his hacking efforts of politicians and celebrities on both sides of the Atlantic.

Although, Guccifer, who recently did an extensive interview with the celebrity gossip website TMZ refused to indicate precisely how he has managed to hack into the emails of so many famous people, there does appear to be some evidence that one technique he uses is to get an email address of someone such as he did with media icon, Tina Brown, who has an extensive email address book.  He then uses simple techniques to answer his victim’s security question and change the password to the account whereupon he is able to take over the account and have access to all of the information stored there.  Simple, publicly available information such as birth dates, schools attended and other such information has provided the keys to answering the security questions of his victims.  He also apparently has used lists of the name of pets to answer security questions as well.  And herein lies the lesson for us all.  Even if you are not a celebrity, there is so much information about us all that is publicly available; sometimes the information is even provided by us through our Facebook pages and other social media, that it is an easy task for a hacker to get at our email accounts and other password and security question protected accounts.

TIPS

Since protecting your email address is an impossible task, the key to protecting your account from being hacked is to have strong security questions and the key to that is to provide a question to which the answer can never be guessed by a hacker.  So if your security question is “What is my favorite vegetable?” you should make the answer “electronic clock” or some other totally illogical response.  Don’t worry about remembering it yourself because if the question and answer are as ridiculous as this, you will remember it.

Scam of the day – June 22, 2013 – Nude photos of Kate Upton

Recently, the celebrity gossip website TMZ released a somewhat slightly censored version of a nude video of model Kate Upton topless on a horse.  The video was actually taken a couple of years ago during a photoshoot for a magazine, but only has become public now.  The video has drawn a great amount of attention because Kate Upton, famous as a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model has not done nude modeling and the desire for nude pictures of this stunningly beautiful woman is considerable.  The video as released by TMZ is censored in that large stars are placed over Upton’s nipples in the video as released by TMZ.

So what does this have to do with scams?  A lot.

Scammers take advantage of the thirst in many of the public for nude photographs of various celebrities and put up phony websites that promise nude photos of the woman of your choice, but only deliver malware including keystroke logging malware that can steal all of the information from your computer and make you a victim of identity theft.  Scammers also send emails or Facebook postings with links purportedly to take you to such photofraphs.  The queen of such malware is former Harry Potter actress, Emma Watson.  One out of every eight searches for photographs of Emma Watson will end up in malware that can harm your computer, steal your personal information and make you a victim of identity theft.   Also among the most dangerous women on the Internet this year are Eva Mendes, Halle Berry, Salma Hayek and Sofia Vergara.

TIPS

Do not click on links or download attachments unless you are absolutely sure that the source is legitimate.  The risk is too great.  Stick to legitimate websites with which you are familiar and don’t fall for the lures of emails with attachments that promise you nude photos of famous people.  It is also important to make sure that you keep all of your computers, smart phones, tablets and other portable devices protected by security software that is up to date.

Many people will be looking online for uncensored copies of this video online, but, as I have indicated, you have to be extremely careful that you are not going to a rogue website whereby you will end up downloading keystroke logging malware.  For those of you interested in seeing the video on TMZ which is an entirely legitimate website, click on this link:  http://www.tmz.com/videos/0_1ks6lx5c/

Scam of the day – May 21, 2013 – Eminem stabbing scam

People are always interested in gossip, photos, videos, stories and news about celebrities.  Unfortunately, scam artists know this and take advantage of our curiosity to lure us to click on links that promise to provide photographs and videos as well as interest grabbing stories about the celebrities who fascinate the public.  It is for this reason that former Harry Potter actress Emma Watson is the most dangerous woman on the Internet.  One out of every eight searches for photographs of Emma Watson will end up downloading malware that can be used to make you a victim of identity theft.  The most recent manifestation of our fascination with celebrities to scam us is a scam that is presently circulating on the Internet involves rapper Eminem.  Many people are finding on their Facebook page a photograph of a stabbed person’s back along with a message that states “Rapper Eminem left nearly DEAD after being stabbed 4 times in NYC!  Warning, 18+!  It was all caught on surveillance video! Click the pic to play the video!”  The truth is that Eminem was not stabbed.  In fact, the same photograph was used in 2011 as a part of a scam in which the photograph was purported to be a shot of the back of Justin Beiber following a stabbing attack.  If you click on the video, one of two things may happen, both of which are not good.  The most benign result is that you will be directed to a website where you are promised prizes if you complete a survey.  The truth is that you won’t get any prizes, but the scammer gets paid for everyone who takes the surveys.  The second, more dangerous result is that when you click on the link, you will unwittingly download keystroke logging malware that can steal all of the data from your computer and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

Do not click on links or download attachments unless you are absolutely sure that the source is legitimate.  The risk is too great.  Stick to legitimate websites with which you are familiar and don’t fall for the lures of emails with attachments that promise you stories, photos or videos of famous people.   For celebrity gossip, stick to websites that you know are legitimate such as TMZ.   It is also important to make sure that you keep all of your computers, smart phones, tablets and other portable devices protected by security software that is up to date.

Scam of the day – September 15, 2012 – Nude pictures of Princess Kate scam

Although it was only recently that I warned you about the dangers of searching online for nude pictures of Prince Harry, it bears repeating in the light of the publishing of paparazzi pictures of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing topless at what she thought was a secluded villa in the French countryside.  Many people will be curious to see these photographs and identity thieves will take advantage of this curiosity to lure you into downloading keystroke logging malware programs on to your computer, laptop or smartphone and steal all of your personal information and make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

You may receive an email or a message on your Facebook page purportedly from a friend telling you to click on a link to get access to the pictures of Kate, but the emails are from identity thieves and even if the message appears to be from a true friend, their email or Facebook page may have been hacked into which is easy to do for an identity thief (or anyone else) to make you less suspicious.  NEVER click on links sending you to pictures such as this.  If you really want to see the pictures, go directly to legitimate websites that deal with this kind of material, such as www.tmz.com.

Scam of the day – September 14, 2012 – Dangerous celebrities online

It is not that Emma Watson, the young actress who is best known as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies is a particularly dangerous person.  She certainly is not known to be a martial arts expert.  However, interest in her is so high that many people find themselves going through search engines to dangerous websites that lure them into clicking on links that will download dangerous keystroke logging malware that can steal the information from your computer or install a virus on your computer.  In particular, looking for nude pictures or celebrity mishaps is a recipe for disaster.  These will often lead to your computer being infected   In fact, McAfee, the computer security company ranks the most dangerous celebrities each year and determined that looking for Emma Watson photographs, videos and downloads on line brought a whopping 12.6% chance of downloading spyware, viruses, or malware.

TIPS

Polonius was right in Hamlet when he told his son that he would be judged by the company he kept.  It is still good advice.  When you are looking for videos and stories about celebrities, stick to legitimate websites that you know will not be likely to cause you to download malware or other viruses.  If you need gossip, stay with the legitimate websites such as www.tmz.com.

Scam of the day – August 24, 2012 – Naked Prince Harry pictures scams

Today’s “scam of the day” is similar to warnings I have provided numerous times in the past.  Whenever there is a real or imagined intriguing newsworthy story, particularly about celebrities or natural disasters, people are drawn to the latest videos or photographs.  Natural disasters, such as the Tsunami in Japan or celebrity curiosity, such as purported photographs of the late Whitney Houston from the hotel room where her body  was found are great fodder for scammers and identity thieves who prey on the curiosity of people.  The latest example of this involves photographs of a naked British Prince Harry cavorting in a Las Vegas hotel suite playing “strip billiards” with a number of women.  In fact, the incident has been confirmed to be true.  Unfortunately, links to these photos that you may receive from “friends”on your Facebook account or through your Twitter account or an email from a “friend” quite often will not take you to these photographs, but instead will, unbeknownst to you, download keystroke logging malware on to your computer or smart phone that can steal all of the information from your computer or smart phone including personal information that can lead to identity theft.

TIPS

Even if the link appears to be from a “friend,” you should always be skeptical because, as I have indicated elsewhere in this website/blog, it is a relatively easy thing to hack into someone’s Facebook account, Twitter account or email account and send out messages that appear to come from a trusted friend, but instead come from an identity thief.  And even if the link that is sent to you really is from one of your real friends, you still may be in jeopardy because he or she may not be aware that he or she may have been hacked into and is passing on to you, without knowing, dangerous keystroke logging malware.  If your curiosity demands that you seek out this information, video or photograph, limit your searches to websites that you are absolutely sure are legitimate, such as, in the instance of the pictures of Prince Harry, the website TMZ.