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Online Scamming and Phishing

Det. Frame and his partner sitting at their desks in their office.Online scamming is a new generation of criminals thriving on the internet through these schemes of phishing and its many methods.  People also try to scam others using the multiple dating sites online to gain the trust and affection of others while planning to actually just steal money from them, or any personal or financial information. 

Dating Scams

The following are some signs you should look out for when interacting with men & women on dating sites from

1. The person is contacting you and being very familiar very quickly, praising you on things they couldn’t possibly know about that are not in your profile.

2. The person says they are in love with you very quickly, usually within two or three weeks, or much quicker if you reply to their emails and/or private messages promptly. It helps if you save them all in one file and read them as a single message, it will be clear how ridiculous the whole thing sounds and looks.

3. The person talks about coming to visit you in the very near future, something that is NOT possible in the
US, Canada or the UK and many other western countries without proper visa applications that take months and lots of paperwork to sort out.

4. The person says they have lost their job, are sick or have a sick relative – they complain that their country does not give them any kind of welfare and that they need money.

5. They tell you they don’t have a computer of their own, that they can’t afford internet café bills to keep talking to you, sometimes they may even fake a request for help from someone else on their behalf.

6. They have no postal address or phone number at which they can be reached; although you don’t want to be giving out such details to anyone, if someone who says they are in love with you and that they are coming to see you in a week or whatever, you would expect some details – these people will avoid all talk on such matters, they will not welcome many kinds of verifiable information.

7. The person will avoid answering your specific questions, the kinds of things you will naturally ask to get to know them better. If you look carefully at their replies to you it will seem that they are not reading everything you write to them, you may be fooled into thinking they do not understand because of a language problem. The person will often ignore your questions and ask other questions of their own.

8. The person will act as if they are offended if you ask for personal details that could prove their identity.

9. They will avoid the subject of you flying to their country to meet them, tell you that it is better that they come to see you instead.

10. The person requires extra money for their none-existent visa or airline tickets because they don’t have enough personal savings, though a local travel agent may be able to help them out with both.

11. The person want you to help him transfer millions of unclaimed dollars to the
U.S., of which you will receive a hefty percentage. Except, of course, you need to pay a few thousand dollars in administrative fees or bribes. After which, you never hear from them again.

12. You should be aware that scammers always use photos of other people: attractive, good and decent. In most cases, they steal photos from online modeling agencies or from real dating profiles of innocent people. So be careful when photos or profiles look too perfect! --This webpage is from MSNBC its a story by Bob Sullivan about singles being seduced into scams.   The story starts out talking about how a Theresa Smalley was trying to find love online, so she want to an online dating website and she found Richi.  He was a wonderfully cute man who had a picture of himself sitting on a couch with his cat.  Theresa and Richi started an online relationship, Richi was a US citizen but was out of the country working on a big construction project.  After four months of courting Richi asked Theresa for some help he was getting paid in money orders but he was having a hard time cashing the checks.  He asked Theresa to cash them at her bank and then send over the money.  A month after cashing four of these checks Theresa was contacted by her bank saying that she had cashed fraudulent checks and that she owed the bank $2,700 in money used from bad checks.  This is a perfect example of online dating fraud.  There are more stories within this webpage.

Phishing Scams

Phishing which is a word taken possibly from the early hacking slang word "Phreaking" is a term describing a malicious act of fraudulently attempting to obtain your passwords, credit card numbers, or social security number through the internet and/or email. 

The ways is which phishing or online scamming occurs is through spoofed email, spoofed websites, spoofed links, and URL redirectors.  Spoofed email occurs when a fraudulent company sends you an email that has links in it to fraudulent web pages that try to obtain your personal information through deception. Spoofed websites occur when there is a link within the spoofed email that prompts a person to a webpage that either has fraudulent information making the email look like a legitimate website of a bank or other organization that a person feels comfortable giving their financial information. The problems with these sites is that they look real.  The web pages usually say something like" your credit cards expired" or "there's security problem we're concerned about, so please click on this link and visit our website and upload you credit card" or "log in with your password to the banking site".  Below is an example of a picture that might be shown in one of these email. 

Screen-capture of a phishing e-mail spoofing Scotiabank.

Other ways of online phishing is by spoofed links.  This happens when you click on a link that directs you to a fraudulent website that tries to obtian your personal information or automatically gives acess of your computer to the phisher.  The last way of phishing or online scamming is URL Redirectors.  This is when a link to a fruadulent web page is hidden within the space of a trusted organizations webpage. 

Above is an example of common elements that phishing email will contain. 

1.  The "From Field" appears to be from the legitimate company mentioned in the email.  It is very important to note that is it very simple to change the "from" information in any email client.  It can be done in a matter of seconds.

2.  The email will usually contain logos or images that have been taken from the Web site of the company mentioned in the scam email. 

3. The email will contain a clickable link with text suggesting you use the inserted link to validate your information.  In the image you will see that once the hyperlink is highlighted, the bottom left of the screen shows the real Web site address to which you will go.  Remember if the hyperlink does not point to the legitimate Citibank web site URL then it is a scam.

Above are graphs that show the amount of phishing sites established per month which have risen 75% from 2005.  And the amount of password stealing found in the last year. 

Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when someone uses identifying information to commit fraud or other crimes.  The Federal Trade Commission announced in September that there have been 27.3 million cases of identity theft in the last five years.  And over half these cases reported happening last year.  These criminals obtain your personal information online or from scamming or phishing and then use your personal information to open credit cards, bank accounts, write bad checks, authorizing electronic transfers, taking out a loan, buying phones under your information, filling out fraudulent tax returns, and giving out a person's name during an arrest by the police.

By viewing the graph above you can see that people from ages 18-29 the being target the most by these identity theft stealers and phishers.  This is probably because younger men and women are more likely to give out personal information pertaining to themselves or they are more apt to open fraudulent emails. 


Ways to Prevent Phishing, Scams, and Identity Theft

Never give out your personal information over the internet and if you do make sure you are on a secure website. 

Never click on links within emails most times they contain spoofed links that will directly send you to a page where your personal information will automatically be taken or the phisher will ask you a series of questions to obtain your personal information.  Most times these websites look legitimate so be careful!

If you ever receive emails from companies that you do not personally belong to be very careful because most times these are fruadulent emails. 

If a person contacts you and says that you are a victim of fraud never gives these people your personal information without verifying their identities and checking your financial information.  Sometimes phishers or scammers will pretend that you have already been scammed to obtain information from an individual and then engage in the scam.

Never send an account number or password through email.  Most times these emails are hacked into and the account numbers and passwords are stolen.  Also never send birth certificates and social security cards over the internet without securing them in a email. 

Always ask for the persons name, the name of the business or company, a phone number, and the address of the company.  Also get the officail number for the company and call them directly to find out if the caller is legitimate. 

Also when searching for jobs online be careful of being targeted by identity thieves.  Some phishers set their sights on people who list themselves on job search web services.  They pose as potent ional employers asking for social insurance number and other personal information. 

How do these phishers get your email?

Phishers obtain email information through a few different ways.  Sometimes these phishers will find your information by surfing though website and newsgroups to find your email addresses or even you AIM screen names.  Phishing and scams and be done through both emails and AIM.  These phishers copying address as they scroll through the web pages, they try to obtain as many as possible so to make as much money as possible.  Sometimes the phishers will buy or trade email lists from other spammers or phishers.  So once you get one fraudulent email watch out because many more may be on they way.  Also phishers like to sent out as many emails as possible so they may just quess on emails becuase it is most likely that some may actually work. 

What is being done to put a stop to online scamming and phishing?

Banks combat phishing by educating their customers on how to prevent online scamming and phishing.  They install fruad detection software and working with industry coalitions.  These coalitions, along with law enforcement agencies at local, provincial, federal and international levels, are working to find phishers and shut down their websites.  The trouble is anonymous scammers are elusive and often based outside of the country where they target their victims.  Consumer education is extremely important.  Most banks have posted anti-phishing tips on their websites and have mailed fraud and identity theft prevention information to their customers.  The more people know about phishing and other identity theft scams, the fewer victims will be affected by these schemes.  Foxfire is another way to combat online phishing.  This program warns you of suspected Web forgeries and offers to take you directly to a search page so you can find the real Web site you were looking for. 

Above is a web shot of what pops up on your computer if you have an anti- phishing program, like FoxFire. 

Top Ten Targeted Scams:

  • Internet Auction Fraud
  • Internet Service Provider Scams
  • Internet Web Site Design/Promotions - Web Cramming
  • Internet Information and Adult Services - Credit Card Cramming
  • Multi-level Marketing/Pyramid Scams
  • Business Opportunities and Work-At-Home Scams
  • Investment Schemes and Get-Rich-Quick Scams
  • Travel/Vacation Fraud
  • Telephone/Pay-Per-Call Solicitation Frauds (including modem dialers and videotext)
  • Health Care Frauds

Ethical Issues Behind Online Scamming

There are many issues behind this new wave of scams.  There has been dating scams, that target people when they are the most vulnerable.  They gain a person's trust for sometimes up to four months and then ask their potential lovers to cash money order checks or send them money because of problems that they are having.  After the money is sent the person can never be contacted again.  Another ethical reason that online scamming is so wrong is that some people have used the Hurricane Katrina to starts scams to get money of out people.  Their is one scam circulating around the web that looks like a web page dedicated to helping Katrina victims by uniting their strength and sending packages and money to victims of Hurricane Katrina.  Once you decide to send money to these organizations they send you to a pay pale link that actually sends you to a link of a fraudulent site where your money is then sent to the scam artists.  Other issues are phishing where fraudulent emails are sent to people to obtain personal information about individuals to access bank accounts and other financial institutions.  These scams are wrong and they cost innocent people tons of money.  Scamming a person is just like stealing from a person.  These scam artists found a way to target people when they are the most vulnerable.  Also the money that could be going to these victims of Katrina or other organizations that need help are being stolen from by these criminals.

1 in 6 people are victims of identify theft don't be next, protect yourself.