Junk mail is a pain for everyone. No matter how hard we try to filter it out, both manually and with carefully set spam filters, it always seems to find its way back into the “in” box. Spam is responsible for about 400 billion messages every day per some Internet watchdogs. It is responsible for the great majority of all email traffic on the web.
If you think your ability to not fall for the Nigerian King’s kind and desperate plea for help is keeping you safe, now would be a great time to get up to speed on the newest tactics scammers and spammers are using to get access to Internet users’ identities, bank accounts, and personal information.
Artisanal spam; Small batch lies
It’s not just for cheese and soap anymore. Artisanal spam is sent to only a few thousand email addresses. Because they target fewer people, the chances that they’ll be automatically blocked by spam filters goes down. When more messages make it into a real “in” box, they are much more likely to be read and responded to.
The information in these small batch spam emails is carefully curated by scraping personal information from corporate computer lists that hold personal information about customers. For example, a hacker may steal information from a medical clinic and then send out email bills with correct information. When the victim pays the bill via email, the money goes to the hacker, not to the clinic. The victim is still responsible to pay the clinic, and must seek help through their credit card company or bank to get their money back.
Social media account hacks offer an easy in for scammers
Collecting personal information from social networks is easy for hackers. Many people have their security settings so low that anyone can access their list of “friends” or contacts. Emails sent from those trusted contacts after a hacker has gotten access to the lists contain links inviting the recipient to click through. As soon as they click the link, every keystroke they make on that computer is recorded and automatically forwarded to the hackers. This often ends up revealing logins, passwords, and signing credentials for financial accounts.
This kind of scam happens often enough that PayPal and big banks like Bank of America have a process in place that is automated so victims can get help nearly immediately. It’s still an arduous and stressful situation, and getting the money back that hackers steal from these accounts can take weeks.
Staying safe may seem impossible, but with just a bit of online research, much of the danger of Internet scams can be avoided for seniors. Before returning a call, google the phone number to find out if it has been reported as a scam number. Don’t click on links sent from anyone unless you’ve confirmed that they actually sent the email and that their account hasn’t been hacked. Communicate with healthcare clinics and doctors’ offices directly and never pay a bill via an email.