Spammers, Scammers and Frauds, Oh My
by
Brian Campbell

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As a side effect of my self-employment, working online and on social media, I receive a large number of e-mails which are… shall we say… dubious, suspicious, doubtful, hard to believe; to quote Number 5 from the movie Short Circuit.  I have won more lotteries than I can remember, without ever having bought a single ticket. A multitude of incredibly wealthy people have wanted to either a) share their vast wealth with me or b) give it to me in its entirety. All I need to do is provide them with my banking information and they will gladly turn over more money than I could spend in my lifetime. Sure.

I have even received an e-mail death threat. Really! A Mr. Green Umar (undoubtedly a Middle Eastern relative of Kermit) sent an e-mail to advise me that a business associate of mine had hired him to kill me. He was hoping that I would make a counter offer in exchange for my life and the name of the person who hired him. He told me that, (Quote) “I am from a well trained group in the middle east that carries out suicide bombings and special killings of top government officials.” Really? And you got me as your assignment! Not top of the class, were we? My options were, heed him or regret it. I chose door number three. Save the e-mail and laugh about it. I never heard from Mr. Umar again.  Well, you know what they say, “It’s not easy being Green.”

Then there are the somewhat more believable ones. You know the ones I’m talking about. They claim to be from your bank warning you of a potential fraud on your account, or wanting to update your account to prevent online fraud. Some of these are quite good, using proper logos and bank ID, and often preying on justifiable fears of hacking and identity theft. For me, recognizing them as fake has been easy. Not once have they gotten my bank correctly in any of their attempts. I have considered contacting them and suggesting that if they could find money under my name in any of these accounts I would gladly share it with them. On top of that, I do minimal online banking and NEVER from my business e-mail.

For those of you who do receive banking information at your e-mail address, keep these things in mind. It is extremely unlikely that the security division of your bank would contact you by e-mail. It is even more unlikely that your bank would ask for confidential information by e-mail. Thirdly, and most obviously, if your name isn’t attached to the e-mail, it isn’t for you. This is a “phishing” ploy used to see how many suckers they can catch, and always your first warning that something is “phishy”.  When in doubt, pick up the phone and call your bank, credit card company, or whatever official institution the person on the other end of the e-mail is supposed to represent, to verify it is real. Look up any number you aren’t sure about, don’t use any numbers supplied in the e-mail.

Which brings us to my personal favourites, and the type I get most often because I am self-employed.  These are the ones who want to help me and my business, usually by updating my website, SEO, social media or web content. For me this is both a joke and a warning sign, because if they have studied my website at all, which every one of them claims they have, they would know that web content and social media support are what I do for a living, so I certainly wouldn’t need their help. Once again, seeing my name missing from the introduction is a sure sign that something is “phishy.”   Poor spelling and grammar not only warns me of the likelihood of a scam, it advises me that I wouldn’t want them working on my website even if it wasn’t a scam. However, a big thing that catches my attention is that the majority of these offers to help me with my website fail to contain a business name or website and the e-mail addresses are often Hotmail, Outlook, Yahoo, Gmail or something similar. Excuse me, but why would I trust you to design or upgrade my website when you obviously don’t have one of your own? I was born on a day, but yesterday wasn’t it.

I hope this rant will help you to identify the spammers, scammers and phishers out there. There are a lot of tricksters out there and the internet has made it much easier for them to find and target you. It is becoming increasingly harder to distinguish truth from fiction, so stay on your toes, double check everything and remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. In closing, remember that Abraham Lincoln has been quoted as saying, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet just because there’s a picture with a quote next to it.”