22 May 2010

Internet Scams

Several weeks ago I got an email from a friend of mine, Katie. The email basically said, "My family and I are in Wales, and we got robbed! Please help us. We have to leave soon and we don't have any of our documentation! Help!"

There were a few things that seemed odd to me about this email:
  • Some of the grammar and spelling were just a little bit off; Katie is normally the type of person who cares about such things, so this was a red flag.
  • I haven't been in really frequent contact with Katie since we worked together in 2007. Why was I suddenly one of her go-to pals?
  • I didn't remember Katie saying anything on Facebook about a trip to Wales, and I'm sure I would have noticed if she had mentioned it.
  • I decided to check Katie's Facebook page to see if I had just missed something. To my shock, she was completely gone from Facebook.
And that was the dead giveaway. Somebody had hacked into Katie's email account and sent an email to all of her contacts, using a slightly different email address than her own. They had changed her password so she couldn't get back into her account, and they had deleted her Facebook account entirely so she had no way of communicating with anybody via the Internet.

You've probably heard of similar stories. If not, this is your warning

And if you are one of the gazillion people out there who uses the same password for everything, you maybe want to stop.

And if you are one of the gazillion people out there who sends mass emails using the "to" field instead of the "Bcc" (Blind Carbon Copy) field, shame on you. You are opening yourself up to be an easy target for such things. (Not to mention that you are giving away the emails of all your friends and family members without their consent.) If you don't know how to send a BCC email with your particular email client, just google it. It should be pretty simple.

And that's my advice today on not getting scammed.


Packrat said...

Thanks for the advice, but some email providers with built-in spam blockers won't let cc's and bcc's go through. So, if it is an important message, it needs to be sent directly to each person. (Learned this the hard way...)

I recommend frequently changing your passwords, and don't use real words or names in the password.

And, yes, use different passwords for each account.

P1 Steven said...

I use my SS# for all my codes. Is that bad?