Responding to Scam and SPAM communications

Simply. DON'T.

BEWARE OF SCAMMERS AND SPAMMERS IN ALL FORMS!!!

SCAMS work by appearing authentic - the more brazen and confident the thief, the less people are likely to notice a robbery as it happens around them. One of the most common types of scam today (because technology makes it easy) is the Phishing scam either by mail, email or telephone. In such "social engineering" scams, someone contacts you, sounding very credible and talks you into giving them key information so they can rip you off. In This article a recent study shows that UK residents were stung for £21M in the first six months of 2014 and the the average rip-off is £10,000! This is just in scams over the phone or by letter.

Another favourite is "ransomware". This is where the criminal appeals to either your fear, gullability or greed to get you to download a computer program (by hiding it in some official/scary looking document) which then encrypts your computer and makes you pay a fee for the decryption key. There is an example at the end of this article.

So how do you start to protect yourself...? The Golden Rule is: Be Supicious, and if in doubt ignore the communication Visit the getsafeonline site for more help and advice.

Nature has graced you with a great sense of suspicion born of 3 Million years of higher evolution - it will protect you - IF YOU USE IT! You can't get stung by being too suspicious. These rules below will help you refine it.

  1. DO NOT REPLY TO ANY UNSOLICITED COMMUNICATION BY ANY MEANS EVER! Not even to "UNSUBSCRIBE". The unsubscribe is a ruse to make you confirm a live address and you will only open the flood gates to more. The unsubscribe link often goes to a webpage that attempts to directly/automatically hack your PC.
  2. Never give anyone your password or pin or user account details or anything like that - EVER! No authority will ask you for it - their computers already know it. Only scammers want your details and if you walk into their trap there is little anyone can do to protect you.
  3. Do not click on any links in suspicious looking emails.
  4. Never agree to transfer money where there is a sense of urgency. The bank doesn't need to transfer money out of your account to "protect" you - EVER!
  5. Be very suspicious of any "official" looking mails. This includes the Police, Tax Office, FBI, the United Nations... they won't contact you by email if they want you - they'll be kicking your front door in .
  6. DO NOT REPLY TO ANY SPAM
  7. You cannot win any competition you did not enter. You have not Won £2.5Million in the CocaCola lottery, Kofe Anan doesn't want you to help him move $65M out of Afghanistan, Bill Gates won't send you $2 for everyone you send this email to... Please don't be gullible and don't forward time-wasting chain mails regardless of the promises of easy money, curses or doom laden threats they may contain if you don't... grow up!
  8. Be suspicious of other people's computers especially (but not only) in internet cafes etc. NEVER enter passwords or PINs etc. on "strange" machines (even at a friends house). If that machine has a key-logger installed, the crooks now have the webpage you went to, your user name and your password... if that is your bank or PayPal, they've just emptied your account, stolen all your personal details, cloned your identity etc. and there is nothing you can do about it except brace for the tsunami of crap your world has just become - And all because you ignored this golden rule!
  9. Remember: SCAMS come in all forms : Over the phone - just hang up - do not get drawn into a conversation. Crooks can glean key information from the most inocuous things you might say, even if just chatting about the weather. Old age people are especially vulnerable here - they love to chat mainly out of loneliness (and the crooks know that - it's most likely why they contacted you in the first place). The longer you chat the more the chances of breaking your resolve. Example calls are of a "Help desk" a "solicitor", "your bank", the "police"... tell them to contact you by mail (and don't give them your address) and hang up. You can give them major information in the tiniest of comments your make. They are crooks and they don't miss a trick. Beware! These can be *very* convincing and if over the phone, the crooks can be incredibly persuasive, even having "office sounds" and accomplices in "other departments" or "my supervisor" etc. to add authenticity to the call. They prey on the British psyche that we don't like to be rude to strangers and that extends to hanging-up on someone. Told you they are clever! They have done their homework, make sure you do yours! If you do think the call might be genuine, always ask for a number to call them back on and wait for some time before you call back - at least 30 minutes - they can fake an outbound call from your phone because of a wrinkle in the way the British telephone system works. Letter and Phone contacts should be reported to the police - Dial 101.
  10. In mobile text messages, "our records show you are entitled to £3560 for the accident you had" - don't be gullible! No authority is going to contact you by text!
  11. In letters. "You have won the Dutch [garbage of your choice here] lottery". No. You haven't.
  12. People stopping you in the street. You give to charity right? You don't even mind setting up a direct debit to pay £2 a month... but, are you going to give your bank details to a pushy stranger with a clipboard and a hi-vis jacket on Oxford Street and take the chance they are legitimate? Send them away - if you decide to donate, do it via a better method - at a bank/post office, via a premium rate text, a visit to their official website.
  13. Some other method I haven't mentioned... Crooks are clever - they are always thinking up new ways to relieve you of your cash and personal details. You'll end up on a list and your life details passed around like a bag of toffees for $50 a copy - It happens all the time! Hundreds of credit card accounts and debts, all those companies "know" it is you and they will chase you relentlessly to get paid back. Letters and phone calls and debt collectors who all think YOU are the crook!
  14. Always check the phone number and return addreses. Do you really think "The Virgin Media Lottery" (whatever that is) will want you to call an international 00 number or a mobile 07 number or a £5 per minute 09 number?... and why have they got a "@hotmail.com" email address or some other unlikley address? Take a look at this collection below... Two phishing "Paypal" emails with similar look and feel from addresses in Russia, other "official looking" emails with rubbish sender addresses...

    Doesn't sound very likely does it? We have also noticed that things tend to come in groups, lots of "Amazon" emails all at once then lots of "Paypal" ones or those with similar subjects like below

    Be suspicious of stuff like this and if you are still in doubt, leave it for a day or two and see if any more come in that look similar. Also, if the English is bad, that should ring alarm bells.
  15. Finally... DO NOT REPLY TO ANY SPAM, REGARDLESS OF HOW YOU RECIEVE IT... EVER.

You walk among wolves. Please be careful. The reason this stuff is everywhere is because it works, if it didn't the crooks would move onto something that did. Someone must be falling for it everytime - MAKE SURE IT ISN'T YOU!

Example emails:


Type: Ransomware. The attachment will contain a program which will encode the data on your computer making it unusable. You will then be shown a message detailing how much (usually several hundred pounds) and who to pay for the key to un-do the damage.
Marks: A request for you to download something from an unexpected source should get your senses tingling. Does HMRC know your email address? I doubt they are even interested. Also, the grammar is poor and the context of the mail feels wrong - No salutation or introduction and when did HMRC ever do "a few calculations"?
Targets: Gullabilty and Greed with a touch of Fear at the end
HM Revenue & Customs

After a few calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible
to receive tax refund of 450.29 GBP
To receive your tax refund, please download and fill the form attached to this email
If you ignore this mail, you will be penalized

Customer service.
Tax Credit Office
PO Box 1970
London
W22HD


Type: Phishing. Attempts to get you to reveal key details about some account you hold - PayPal, ebay and Amazon are very popular, Mail services occur frequently.
Marks: Asking for passwords, User IDs and personal information. Poor grammar or construction of sentences. Why would this organisation who have just sent me an email, now be asking for my email address? Clearly nonsense.
Targets: Gullability
	Dear Account User

	20.9GB now, you will not be able to create a new email mail to send or
	receive again until the mailbox is validated. To confirm or validate
	your e-mail, submit the information requested below,

	Email address:
	Username:
	password
	Confirm Password:
	Date of Birth:


Type: 419 Scam. Two examples here. These are the first contact email in a classic 419 scam. A very common and very successful scam - I am amazed huge numbers of people still fall for this even today, probably because they can be quite complex - be doubly cautious. To get this "money" (of course, there isn't any) you will be asked to pay increasing "Fees" as bribes and taxes etc. In this example, the chances are this scumbag wouldn't see any mails even if you did reply because the idiot has mis-spelled his return email address! I guess they aren't all clever.
Marks: Communication is unexpected. Poor English, sentence construct and grammar are easy to spot. Use of BLOCK CAPITALS. Sob-story of hardship trying to capitalise on your sense of pity and charity. Use of unlikely sounding return address/phone number, In this example, why is the United Nations using an @outlook.com address?
Targets: Gullability and Greed

	Good Day Beneficiary,
	This is to inform you that your wining compensation sum
	of(US$800.000.00) has been converted into ATM-VISA-CARD
	by United Nations due to your delay,Contact Dr. James Smith
	Via Email:(jameissmith10@outlook.com ) for more details
	Regard mark


Second example

MY GOOD FRIEND,

I AM WOOD MORGAN A SENIOR STAFF WITH THE CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA (CBN).I AND THE CHIEF SECURITY OFFICER (CSO) OF OUR BANK HAVE ARRANGED
WITH  AN OFFICER IN THE COMPUTER SECTION OF THIS BANK, ENGINEER MARK DAVIS TO BRING OUT YOUR TOTAL SUM AMOUNTING TO {$5 MILLION UNITED
STATES DOLLARS} FIVE MILLION US  DOLLARS.WHY WE DID THIS, IS BECAUSE ACCORDING TO INFORMATION GATHERED FROM THE BANKS COMPUTER, YOU HAVE
BEEN WAITING FOR A LONG TIME TO RECEIVE YOUR MONEY WITHOUT SUCCESS. ASn I FOUND OUT THAT YOU HAVE ALMOST MET ALL THE STATUTORY
REQUIREMENTS OF THE CBN IN RESPECT OF YOUR CONTRACT PAYMENT, YOUR PROBLEM IS THAT OF INTEREST GROUPS.

A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE INTERESTED IN YOUR PAYMENT AND THOSE PEOPLE ARE MERELY DOING PAPER WORK WITH YOU AND THAT EXPLAINS WHY YOU RECEIVE
FAX AND PHONE MESSAGES FROM  DIFFERENT PEOPLE EVERYDAY.ALSO WE FOUND OUT THAT SOME OF THE OFFICIALS OF VARIOUS PARASTATALS HAVE BEEN
EXTORTING A LOT OF MONEY FROM YOU IN THE PRETEXT OF HELPING YOU  RECEIVE YOUR MONEY, I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT THIS MAY LAST FOR YEARS YET
NOTHING WOULD  HAPPEN IF YOU DO NOT DO AWAY WITH THOSE OFFICERS THAT YOU CALL YOUR PARTNERS.I AM WILLING TO HELP YOU GET YOUR MONEY BUT
PLEASE FOR SECURITY REASONS DO NOT TELL ANYBODY THAT YOU HAVE YOUR MONEY UNTIL YOU RECEIVE CASH AT YOUR DOORSTEP.THE MONEY IS IN TWO
SECURITY-PROOF BOXES WEIGHING 10KG EACH, THAT IS 20KG FOR THE TWO BOXES, YESTERDAY WE WENT TO FOUR COURIER SERVICE TO MAKE ARRANGEMENTS
ON HOW TO SHIP THEM BY COURIER SERVICE TO YOU. DHL, EMS , FEDEX AND UPS, ALL SAID THAT THEY MUST OPEN  THE BOXES FOR INSPECTION BY THE
CUSTOMS BEFORE SHIPMENT.THIS IS SOMETHING WE WANT TO AVOID BECAUSE THE BOXES WERE PADDED WITH MACHINE. WE  TOLD THE COURIER SERVICE THAT
THE BOXES CONTAINS PHOTOGRAPHIC AND FILM MATERIALS AND WHEN OPENED WILL LOOSE ITS EFFICACY. WE DID NOT DECLARE MONEY BECAUSE COURIER
SERVICEDOES NOT CARRY MONEY.

TODAY A FRIEND OF MINE WHO IS A CHRISTIAN LIKE ME DISCLOSED TO ME THAT THERE IS A COURIER SERVICE THEY USE TO SEND PACKAGES AND
INFORMATION FROM ONE COUNTRY TO  ANOTHER, AND THE COURIER SERVICE CAN DELIVER THE PACKAGE ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD AND CANNOT BE INSPECTED
BY ANY CUSTOMS ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.THE NAME OF THE COURIER  SERVICE IS BARNET LOGISTICS LTD.

I WILL MEET WITH THEM AS SOON AS I HAVE YOUR GO AHEAD ORDER.THE COURIER SERVICE WILL HELP ME SO WE DO NOT HAVE ANY PROBLEM.WE HAVE
CONCLUDED THAT YOU MUST COMPENSATE  US WITH {$500,000 USD} FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS AS SOON AS YOU RECEIVE YOUR MONEY.

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO RE-CONFIRM THE UNDER LISTED DETAILS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE FOR
 ONWARD SHIPMENT OF YOUR OVER DUE CONTRACT FUND:
 YOUR FULL NAME:
PRIVATE TELEPHONE NUMBER:
 CHOICE OF ADDRESS {where you wish the consignment delivered}:
 PRESENT OCCUPATION:
AGE:
GOD IS WITH US AS WE WAIT FOR YOUR REPLY.
 YOURS FAITHFULLY,
 WOOD MORGAN,