Tag Archives: scam

Email Hoaxes

Countless Email messages are circulated around the world daily containing misinformation, rumours, urban legends, folklore, and myths. Although the Internet is an almost limitless source of useful information, some people just cannot be content with that, and for reasons known only to them, feel a need to mislead others by spreading false information.

It could be anything from the latest health scare or miracle cure, to a story about the next computer virus that is poised to attack your computer. Many of these “tall tales” sound quite plausible, and therefore the immediate tendency is to want to spread this new “knowledge” to your family and friends as a public service announcement. After all, who does not want to save the life of your family members and/or friends or protect their beloved computers from impending doom?

All too often, this information gets “forwarded” at “face value”, without doing any research into it at all to validate the information. To make matters even worse, these messages are often sent without using Bcc (Blind Carbon Copy), thus exposing Email addresses to others… When you send an E-Mail message to multiple recipients, it is usually considered proper Email etiquette to use Bcc (instead of “To” or “Cc”) to hide the list of Email addresses from the other recipients.

To reduce this Email plague of misinformation, you can investigate possible hoaxes on websites such as Snopes and Hoax Busters. These are tools you can use for free when trying to determine if something you read has already been identified as a hoax or scam. Visit Techrepublic for some additional website suggestions. I’ve personally found Snopes to be one of the more comprehensive sites for ferreting out hoaxes.

Whenever I receive an E-Mail message that sounds somewhat unbelievable, I usually use Google with a few choice “keywords” from the “story” (such as names, places, or other very specific information), and I also include the words “hoax” and “Snopes” in the search criteria. More often than not, there will be an entry in the Snopes (or one of the other sites) databases to tell you if the story is true or false.

Please be diligent, and take a moment to check the authenticity of any Email “story” before forwarding it along to others.

– David Spearns (ETAG Volunteer Technology Tutor)

Phone scam – hang up!

Even if you have already registered your telephone number with the National Do Not Call List, you still may be pestered by unscrupulous telemarketers.  One such call would be the “There Is Something Wrong With Your Computer” scam, or the “Your Computer Has A Virus” scheme.

Please do not fall for these tricks!

You can rest assured that reputable companies such as Microsoft and Apple will NEVER call your house to tell you that there is something wrong with your computer! When such fixes are required to your computer’s software, the updates are sent via official channels, and not by way of unsolicited telephone calls.

There are many variations to this “scam”, with the end result always being that someone is trying to trick you into parting with your hard-earned money. For example, someone may call and tell you that they wish to perform “maintenance” or “virus removal” on your computer. We have all heard about the plague of the “computer virus” (which is a legitimate concern in its own right); however these scam artists know how to play on our fears of what a computer virus may do, and try their level best to scare you into buying into their bogus schemes.

Do not give any form of personal information (name, address, E-mail address, credit card number, social insurance number, etc.) to someone who phones you unsolicited, and NEVER relinquish control of your computer to one of these con artists. If you give a stranger control of your computer or simply download their “software”, you are most likely letting yourself in for lots of grief. Most of the time, the intention is to install some form of Malware on your computer, to suit the needs of these criminals, not yours.

Malicious software introduced by these telephone scams possibly lets a stranger do the following over your internet connection:

  • Access all information and documents stored on your computer
  • Track your typing so that they can log all your passwords, credit card numbers, or anything else you type
  • Monitor your purchases, your email, your web browsing
  • Control your computer without your knowledge, using it to send viruses out to everyone on your email contacts list
  • Lock you out of your computer and damage or erase its contents

I do not mean to scare you with this information, but rather, just keep you alert, so that you can enjoy your computer experience instead of innocently being a victim of telephone/computer fraud. My best advice is to politely “hang up” on these criminals!

Here is a helpful link to the Halton Regional Police website, for more information about frauds and scams.

– David Spearns (ETAG Volunteer Technology Tutor)