Business-like, isn't he?



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    Scam artists embracing opportunities from boom in social media

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2010 First published in Business in Vancouver May 11 - 17, 2010: issue #1072

    High Tech Office column

    Even though my e-mail service (I use Google’s Gmail) filters out most spam, scams and virus-laden attachments, a few messages trying to entrap me make it through.

    Because I have a Canadian “.ca” e-mail address, I attract an added share of Canada-theme fakes. For example:

    •My “account security validation has expired . . . click here to get started,” claimed a note, seemingly from the TD Bank, just one of a variety of fraudulent requests I get, apparently from Canadian banks and even Quebec-based caisse pops. This time, the “click here” link goes to a Brazil-based “.br” website. Turn on your browser’s status bar so that when your mouse hovers over a link you’ll see where it really goes.

    •“You are eligible to receive a charge refund,” promises an e-mail claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). How nice! Click here to receive $386. Somehow, I doubt it. Remember, neither banks nor the CRA are sending out e-mail notices of this sort. Never. They’re guaranteed to be scams.

    With the increasing popularity of Facebook, scams based on that service are also proliferating. Some of them come as e-mail messages pretending to be e-mail notifications that someone’s contacted your Facebook account, mimicking real Facebook notification messages. Apparently, someone named Carmella is wondering if we’ve met before. The link to read the message includes the word “facebook” in the address but is not to Sorry, Carmela, we’ve never met.

    And while free ads on Craigslist take an ever-growing bite out of print newspaper classified ad revenue, they also open up a path for scams. When I posted an ad on Craigslist-Vancouver to sell a digital camera, the first reply I received, from a Gerrald Philips, looked legitimate, wondering “wats the firm price.” On hearing back from me, he responded: “Thanks for you reply toward my request for your item, i am very happy to hear that the item is still available, please send me your paypal e-mail or invoice to enable me make the payment as soon as possible. i am a medical doctor here in toronto and i am buying this item (gift) for my son that was currently transfered to west africa. you will mail the item to him through canada post regular air mail. i will be adding the shipping cost ($150) during payment of your the item once you get back to me. i need this item as soon as possible. i travelled to texas for a seminar, that is why can’t pick up locally. hope it is in good condition.”

    How many reasons to be suspicious can you count? The “medical doctor” who is spelling-, grammar- and capitalization-challenged? The Toronto resident who doesn’t realize that Vancouver isn’t local? The promise to pay $150 over my asking price for shipping? Or is it the request that I send the camera to West Africa? Tempting as it might be to accept an offer for significantly more than my asking price, I don’t think so!

    When Craigslist forwards e-mail messages from potential buyers to sellers it adds a header, in prominentcapital letters, warning: “CRAIGSLIST ADVISORY – AVOID SCAMS BY DEALING LOCALLY.” That’s good advice. Equally worth remembering is the old cliché that if something seems too good to be true, that’s usually the case.

    Gmail filters out most of the stuff I’d just as soon not see: e-mails promising watches, pharmaceuticals, cheap software and improved sex (and sex organs). It is, however, worthwhile poking through the spam mailbox from time to time. Not just to see what you’re missing: the best of filters make mistakes and sometimes filter out legitimate messages. Just now, for instance, I found a mistakenly filtered notice confirming a payment I’d made yesterday using PayPal.

    Of course, a few messages lower, there was a faux-PayPal notice, hoping I would click on the link and type in the password to my account. Silly as they may sometimes look, e-mail scams continue because some of us follow up on them.

    Stay safe. Favicon

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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