Beware: Internet scams could come from your friend's computer
Computer crime on the rise
I recently received the following e-mail from a friend's computer:
I made a trip to Madrid and i have lost my cash, mobile phone and credit cards. I've made contact with my bank but they need more time to come up with a new one. I need you to lend me some money to sort my self out of this predicament, will pay back once I get this over with. Right now I need about $1300 to settle my hotel bills. Please let me know if you can help me
I immediately realized that this e-mail could not possibly come from Michael as he would not send out an urgent request for help with the title "Hi". Also, he is not a very close friend, merely a person I exchange the occasional e-mail with, so I don't think he would approach me for financial help.
My suspicion was confirmed, Michael's e-mail address had in fact been hijacked and this note sent out to his entire address book.
I also receive the occasional e-mail from a South African friend's computer, advertising some unbelievable deals of Chinese companies. These e-mails are usually full off spelling mistakes which is a dead giveaway, that they are not from him. He has some business acquaintances in Nigeria and told us, that his computer has already been hijacked a few times, resulting in a flood of fraudulent e-mails sent out from his computer.
Often I get e-mails from my bank or other financial institutions, claiming that I need to update my personal data or that an amount has arrived but they can't put it into my account without my personal pin code. These are all criminal attempts to get hold of my money and I am amazed, that some people are still gullible enough to fall for this old trick. After all, our banks have been warning us about such scams for years.
It looks like computer hijacking is becoming the norm these days. We therefore have to be careful not to click on any links contained in suspicious e-mails and not to reply to cries for help.
You don't need to be a computer expert to recognize fraudulent e-mails, just use some common sense and look for the following signs:
- If a title looks out of the usual
- Spam e-mails or fraudulent e-mails quite often contain a lot of spelling mistakes as they come from 3rd world countries.
- If you receive a request for help, try to contact your friend immediately by phone to make sure that everything is ok. Never send any money or personal details.
- Never reply to any requests for personal data or passwords from your bank. Your bank has all the details it needs. Such e-mails are always fraudulent and often sent out randomly. Remember: Bank logos can easily be copied into any e-mail, by any criminal. If you are unsure, phone your bank and talk to an employee.