The email phishing scam that relies on your stupidity
An email arrives, supposedly from a friend or colleague. Even though there are clear signs that it is a scam, many of us still fall for it.
Scams do not only dupe the naive and the daft. Really clever people also fall for the most obvious online scams, handing over the keys to their email, and sometimes just about everything else.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
Should I have a good giggle because, despite warning after warning, highly intelligent people still fall for dangerous nonsense? Or should I have a good weep because those self same people don't read the warnings – or that they are not as clever as their pay grade might imply? I don't know.
But I do know that swindlers always live in hope of someone falling into their traps. Remember fraud victims have to play their own part in handing over their cash - this is not a case of bad people in balaclavas brandishing baseball bats.
The philosopher's email
Last week I received an email entitled (in capital letters) FOR TONY.
Who was this from? None other than Alain de Botton. Zurich born de Botton, educated at Harrow and Cambridge, is a famous thinker. He wrote “The Consolations of Philosophy” and “The Architecture of Happiness” among many others. So why is he writing to me?
Of course – and this is bad for my self-esteem – he wasn't. It wasn't Alain de Botton, but a scamster stealing his name. Now, don't do this at home, but I opened the obviously dodgy email to find a link (since shut down) to a money generator site where, apparently, I can earn $4,386 a month with just two hours' work and no previous experience. Now what did someone say about if it looks too good to be true?
It is easy to set up an email and create a false identity. I think this is sort of funny – maybe even a philosopher would smile.
Receiving emails from 'friends'
Now for one which made me angry. Two intelligent, very highly paid men who work for an information website with their own IT department.
I know them – I've done a bit of work for them. So getting an email was not a surprise. Even the heading “Important Document” might have been true.
Pete, the supposed sender of the email, is very literate. This letter was not. The hyperlink led to a number of email logos, including Hotmail, Gmail and YahooMail as well as that of a property company I had never heard of. It then said: "To access our online secured auction page, you are required to choose your email address below."
Now this is the amazing bit. Pete (although he denies this) had followed the instructions when he received the same email from elsewhere, clicked on his email provider and then filled in the pop-up form which required both email address and password.
The scamster now has not only the email address of someone susceptible to revealing details to a company they have never heard of (which turned out to be an innocent company in Latin America whose logo has been hi-jacked) but also the password for that email account.
Now the fraudster has the keys to everything - not just contacts, but all the emails received and sent. It does not matter how fast you change your password, they've already copied the contents. They will go through all of your mail to find something which can be turned into cash – or even material for blackmailing purposes.
Failing to learn their lesson
Now, everyone on Pete's list has this email including his colleague, Colin, who is even more computer-savvy. Despite knowing about it from Pete, he still sent off his password. As a result I get the email again. Colin was red-faced when friends asked him about this.
Neither man can explain their stupidity. Both had to send their computers for deep malware cleansing and both have had to change every single password they have. But this was not about viruses. It is all about crooks grabbing personal information.
What I don't know is how many others who received this email also followed these two and gave their passwords. With easy pickings like this, who needs to trade drugs or money launder?
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