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Wednesday, February 6, 2013


There are all sorts of cyberspace scams that prey on people, separating them from their money. Mystery author Terry Ambrose stops by today with some tips for online safety. Terry started out skip tracing and collecting money from deadbeats and quickly learned that liars come from all walks of life. He never actually stole a car, but sometimes hired big guys with tow trucks and a penchant for working in the dark when “negotiations” failed. Learn more about Terry and his books at his website. -- AP 

Three tips to stay safe online

I recently received an email from a friend, who is a very nice man, does lots of community service and other good things, and who also sent out a slew of spam. He didn’t do it intentionally, but was the victim of someone hacking his AOL account. A couple of days before that, I received another spam email from another friend who’d had his email account hacked. This unfortunate and all too frequent issue points out just how difficult it can be for people to avoid becoming the victim of a scam. Here are three quick tips to help keep your financial information safe.

Work at home scams
Some of our relatives recently retired to California from their place in Florida. Once they got here, they decided that it would be nice to be able to work from home to stay active and make a little extra cash. The interesting thing is that many of those “work at home” offers are no more than scams. Robert Brauer of The Internet Truth Project (www.theinternettruthproject.com), an organization that helps new internet entrepreneurs avoid scams and focus on honest ways of growing their businesses warns that, “Most are complete scams -- in fact, government studies show that 54 of 55 are scams.”

Keep your financial information confidential
Let’s return for a moment to that AOL email I mentioned at the top of this post. The email told me that my friend had gone to the Philippines and had been mugged. He was in need of cash. This scam is one of the oldest around, but continues to be used by scammers because these guys are good at practicing the old adage, “don’t fix what ain’t broken.” If you receive this type of email and want to check with your friend, be sure not to simply reply to the email, but create a new one or, better yet, call him and him to change the password on his email account.

Spoofed websites
Perhaps one of the most dangerous threats is the “spoofed” website. A spoofed website is a fake site that has been set up to look exactly like the real thing. These sites typically have domain names that are similar to the ones they’re imitating. For instance, AARP issued an alert to it’s members before the holidays about a site using the address “www.tiffany.co.mn” instead of the legitimate “www.tiffany.com”. The thing that makes these sites so dangerous is their appearance, which is virtually identical to the original. It’s unwise to ever click a link in an email, but if you do, make sure the address matches what you expect and isn’t some dangerous derivative.

If you’d like more tips on how to stay one step ahead of the con, check out my Crime and  Courts column on Examiner.com or the tips I provide on my website.

License to Lie:
Never trust a soul—even your own.
Two experts in the art of communications. Both are driven by their goals—and they’re on opposite sides of the law. But, when her father is kidnapped, they join forces—and learn that with $5,000,000 and their lives on the line, it’s hard to trust each other—or themselves.


Terry Spear said...

This morning I had a paypal.UK notice to change my personal information, and yesterday it was to rescue an author who was stranded somewhere. Right.

I've had tons of bank alerts to change my personal information. I don't bank with them.

When I was still working at the library, a woman was having trouble with what she needed to send to an email, and I read over it and realized it was a scam. You have won so much money, just send a confirmation, and then we'll ask for everything you've got...I told her it was a scam to get her personal information.

If it's too good to be true, it probably is. :)

Terry Ambrose said...

Hi Terry, thanks for stopping by. Doesn't it seem that the attempts and variations are endless?

Morgan Mandel said...

In the last year or so, it seems there's been an overabundance of spam and strange mail.

I wonder which entity lets them in: Google, yahoo, Facebook - maybe all three!

And, if there's no subject line, I never click. Just once this week someone mentioned forgetting to include the subject line, but all the other times I believe they were tricksters.

Morgan Mandel

Terry Ambrose said...

Great suggestions, Morgan. I think one of the biggest problems isn't that the entities let them in, it's the fact that individuals aren't cautious, click a bad link, then have malware installed and the process begins all over again with the next person. It's a vicious cycle.

Chris Redding said...

The best one I had was for a ticket I supposedly got in Connecticutt.
It was very professional looking and told me to click on the photo to see their pic of my license plate. I didn't.
Several probs.
1. It was sent to my yahoo e-mail which is not my legal name.
2. I wasn't in CT on that date.
3. My car is actually registered in my DH's name.

Anonymous said...

Just yesterday I got a confirmation e-mail from amazon.com thankingme for my order of $55.00. With a delivery adress in the US.Well since I'm in Canada, and only use .com for kindle I almost clicked on the link but stopped and set the email aside while I contacted the official site and found it was a scam. So I think they countyour that first emotinal response to get you to jump before thinking and I'm glad I thought first. They are tricky.

Terry Ambrose said...

Hi Chris and Dory, thanks for stopping by. You've both hit on a key factor here and that's to think first, click second. In most cases, you'll choose to NOT click. It is always nice when the scam emails come to the wrong email address, nice red flag there!

Anonymous said...

This morning Hertz asked me to upgrade my status to Gold. All I had to do was give them a credit card number, my driver's license number, and my birth date. I passed on their offer.