Ten Computer Scams To Avoid

[This is a summary of a ComputerActive article which appeared in the 1st-14th April edition but isn’t yet online.]

There are lots of nefarious characters on the internet trying to extort money from unsuspecting victims.  Here are the top ten con tricks and how to not get caught.  Most Geek News Central readers will be wise to most of these but pass them on to your less technically-savvy friends, colleagues and relatives.

No. 1 Cold-Call Cons

This is where you get an unsolicited phone call from a tech support company offering to fix your computer.  The caller will say that they’ve remotely identified a problem which they can fix and get you to login to a remote control session.  They then have full control over your computer to “fix” the problem or install more nasty software.  Yeah, right.  You may be asked to pay a one time fee or else an annual subscription. Solution – hang up the phone.

No. 2 Error! Click to Scan Disk

While browsing the internet a fake error message pops up telling you that there’s a problem with your hard drive or you’ve got a virus, and to “Click here” to resolve the problem.  This then installs malicious software either for free or a fee. Solution – install a firewall, antivirus software and use common sense.

No. 3 Phishing

Phishing (fishing) are those unsolicited emails that you get claiming to be from your bank asking you to confirm your account details because of suspicious activity on your account or IT upgrades.  Clicking on the link will take you to a fake (but convincing) website which will let you put in your banking details for later use by the scammers. Solution – never, ever click through from an email.  Always open your bank’s page by typing it directly into the address bar.

No. 4 – Congratulations, You Are A Winner!
No. 5 – Vast Inheritance
No. 6 – Money Transfer

These are basically the same advance fee fraud.  You get email purporting that you have won the lottery, you’ve been left millions in a will or someone wants to transfer money out of a dubious country and will pay you a percentage if you help.  Once you get into the scam, you’ll be asked to pay for administration fees, custom fees, solicitors charges and other sundry costs.  Of course, none of your winnings / inheritance / commission ever appear.  Solution – If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.  Delete the emails.

No. 7 – Overseas Auction Cheques

This is where you sell a high-value item on an auction site to an overseas bidder who accidentally overpays you by cheque.  You are then asked to repay the excess electronically while sending the goods on.  Of course, the cheque turns out to be a dud, you’ve lost the money, you’ve lost your auction item and you’re out the money you sent back.  Nice one.  Solution – make sure that the cheque “clears for fate” and not just “for value” – this can take sometime for overseas banks.   Only use auction-approved payment methods for overseas sales.

No. 8 – Friends In Trouble

While you may be smart enough to keep your social networking accounts safe, some of your friends may fall victim to phishing scams and give up their account details to the scammers.  Consequently if you get an email from a friend asking for money, be very wary. Solution – Pick up the phone and call them to confirm that they need the cash.

No. 9 – Cashing In On Disasters

Within hours after the Haiti earthquake, scammers were sending out emails directing people to fake disaster relief websites where your donation either went straight into the scammers pockets or your credit card details were then used for fraud elsewhere. Solution – only use recognised charity websites to make online donations.

No. 10 – Make Money Fast

You get an email offering you the opportunity to make good money from home.  You then have to pay up front for materials which must be processed in some way in order to earn money.  Of course, the goods are never worth the money you spent or the company rejects your processing for being faulty in some way and doesn’t pay the money.  Solution – use Google or other search engine to see if the company is genuine and use your common sense.  Anything that offers big rewards for little effort is suspect.

As with may things in life, common sense goes a long way and if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.  Being alert to these ten scams should help you avoid the worst of them.  Pass them on too.