Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Spam Scams Continue to Make Billions

Even after the many TV specials I’ve viewed, and articles I’ve read, I still can’t believe that so many people have become victim to online scamming. Sure, viruses, spyware, and the like will find their way to unsuspecting computers fairly easily. But I’m talking about the arguably more serious “phishing” scams that request personal information, like banking passwords or account details. Can you believe that Consumer Reports says American consumers have lost more than US$7 billion in the last two years alone from phishing scams, viruses, and spyware? It's sad, but true.

According to Consumer Reports’ survey of more than 2,000 households with access to the Internet, 8% admitted to having submitted personal information in response to a phishing e-mail. Over the past two years, Consumer Reports’ suspects that one million customers in the U.S. lost in the billions of dollars from these types of scams alone! And although the median cost of a phishing scam is US$200, scammers are actually getting better at what they do. Instead of strange, so-called prominent people from overseas countries asking you to cash a cheque for them in order to receive a one-million dollar gift in return (I'm still flabbergasted that anyone would fall for this one!), e-mails now appear to come from companies you actually deal with, like your bank or PayPal; an even people you know!

I receive e-mails on a weekly basis that appear to originate from a slew of different banks: TD, Royal Bank, CIBC, Scotiabank, you name it. Eventually, the “phishers” will finally get the right bank, and I’ll silently laugh as I delete the e-mail. I don’t buy it. But many unsuspecting, technophobic people aren’t so lucky.

For tips and tricks on how to avoid being the victim of an online scam, check out vol. 6 no. 3 of here’s how! magazine (check back to http://www.hereshow.ca/ later this month for the full issue in digital format).

[Photo: Shown here is an e-mail that appears to be from RBC, but is actually a phishing e-mail. The scammer is telling me that my account has been blocked due to suspected fraudulent activity (funny, isn't it?), and asking that I log in to re-instate it. If I hold my cursor over the URL given in the e-mail that looks to direct to RBC’s online security centre, I see that it actually directs to a bogus address. This is just one tip offered in the here’s how! article called Spams and Scams. Readers might also want to note that my Microsoft Outlook had actually flagged this e-mail as a potential phishing message, and filtered it automatically to my junk mail.]


Lee_D said...

Lately, the big new email scam has been a deluge of emails telling me that I have a recieved a GREETING CARD from a friend, neighbor, secret admirer, whatever.

HUNDREDS of thes greeting card emails. It's quite ridiculous. I don't know what their angle is, since there's no chance that I will open one of those. My guess would be either a trojan horse, or a straight-up phishing scam.

Yet, people fall for this stuff. I was apalled to read about the number of people who fall for emails stock tips in pump and dump scams. It's surreal.

Lee_D said...

As it happens, here is a professional explanation of the current crop of e-card scam spams.