FutureFive NZ - How to Spot a Scam

Warning: This story was published more than a year ago.

How to Spot a Scam

Scams have, of course been around forever (yes, even before the internet).In the 1950s one of the more popular newspaper advertising scams went something like this: “Send a ten pound postal note to the address below, with a self-addressed postage paid envelope, and we will provide you with instructions and equipment that will halve your power bills”.  Those that did duly received their envelope back with a pair of very cheap plastic scissors, complete with detailed instructions on how to actually cut the phone bill in half! 
Now, thanks to the internet, these scammers have access to the entire world. Their net is much wider and their scams more sophisticated.
The most ubiquitous of the current internet scams is the phishing [fish-ing] email, which is designed to steal your identity. The scammer will sneakily ask you for personal information or direct you to websites or phone numbers where you are asked to provide personal data.  
Phishing email messages take a number of forms. They might appear to come from your bank or a company you regularly do business with, or even from your social networking site, if you have one.
They might appear to be from someone you know. ‘Spear phishing’ is a targeted form of phishing in which an email message might look like it comes from your employer, or from a colleague who might send an email message to everyone in the company.
They might ask you to make a phone call. ‘Phone phishing’ scams ask you to call a customer support phone number. A person or an audio response unit waits to take your account number, personal identification number, password or other valuable personal data. The phone phisher might claim that your account will be closed if you don’t respond.
They might include official-looking logos taken directly from legitimate websites, and they might include convincing personal details.
They might include links to spoofed websites where you are asked to enter personal information.
It seems certain scammers have been doing the rounds of most of the New Zealand banks over the past 12 months, with Kiwibank being the current favourite.
My suspicions were confirmed – it was a hoax! Not only did Microsoft block the page for security reasons; it’s definitely unlikely that with an address ending in .com.br (ie: from Brazil) it had anything whatsoever to do with a New Zealand bank.
You can’t always rely on Microsoft, or anyone else for that matter though, to save the day and identify the hoax sites for you – new ones are popping up all the time. So be on your guard for phrases like: “Verify your account.”
Almost without question, banks will not ask you to send passwords, login names, or other personal information through email.
“You have won the lottery.”
The lottery scam is a common phishing scam, and even has its own category – Advanced Fee Fraud. A common form of Advanced Fee Fraud is a message that claims that you have won a significant sum of money, or that you will be paid a large sum of money for little or no effort on your part. The lottery scam often includes references to large well-known companies.
“If you don’t respond within 24 hours, your account will be closed.”
These messages try to trick you to respond immediately without thinking, and might even claim that your response is required because your account is in jeopardy.
Another form of hoax that might catch you out is the Masked Web Address.
Web addresses that resemble the names of well-known organisations are slightly altered by adding, omitting, or transposing letters. For example, the address of www.seniornet.co.nz could appear instead as:
This is called ‘typo-squatting’ or ‘cybersquatting’. Typo-squatters and cybersquatters may also create more menacing scams, such as uploading malicious software applications and spyware onto unprotected computers that connect to their sites.
And what about Nigerians?
The so-called ‘Nigerian scam’ is one of the longest running scams. In fact, it predates the internet and email. The scams are also known as ‘419 scams’ after the appropriate part of the Nigerian criminal code. In spite of the longevity of this type of scam and the large amounts of publicity that it has received, many people around the world are still being conned out of substantial sums of money.
The scam works like this: you receive an unsolicited message detailing some sort of business proposition, request for help, notice of inheritance, or opportunity to help a charity, etc. The messages all claim that your help is needed to access a large sum of money, usually many millions of dollars. The first message enlists your help to obtain the money, and subsequent messages follow the theme of the Advanced Fee Fraud – asking you to front with some money in order to obtain the large dosh! 
*For more security news, see pages 16 & 17.

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