Don’t let cybercriminals steal your hard-earned cash!
Anyone with an email account is aware of the common dangers and general annoyance factor associated with spam emails, so we all know to avoid obvious tricks, such as messages touting extreme product discounts or too-good-to-be-true sweepstakes opportunities. Statistics show that most users are well versed in ignoring these common ploys; people purchase the advertised goods in spam messages less than .01% of the time. But what do you do when you receive an email from a trusted friend who pleads for help?
Cybercrooks understand that typical spam yields a very small conversion rate. Therefore, clever criminals are now hacking into legitimate email accounts in order to send out phony messages to the victim’s contacts. These hackers reason that while the typical recipient is unlikely to send money to a stranger, he or she is probably much more willing to help out a friend in need.
A recent article by CNN contributor Bob Greene details this type of email fraud. Greene experienced the scam firsthand when he received an email from a friend asking for help. He recognized the friend’s email address, so he believed that the note was from a trusted source. The message, which began “I’m writing this with tears in my eyes,” asked Greene to wire money because he, the supposed author of the request, had been robbed at gunpoint while on vacation in London.
Green was immediately concerned for his friend and was about to take action; however, upon examining the email more carefully, he discovered some oddities, including peculiar phrases and grammar mistakes that his friend was unlikely to make. He concluded that the email was phony, which he verified by calling his friend (who was at home in Colorado and not on vacation in the UK). A cybercriminal had hacked into his account and sent emails to all of his contacts in the hope that some would take the bait. Greene was lucky to recognize a scam; however, how many others would wire the money without thinking twice? Odds are that a greater percentage of recipients of this type of scam would react as opposed to those soliciting aid for a total stranger.
According to Special Agent Jason Pack with the FBI, these email scams are becoming more prevalent. “This is a new twist that gives these scams more credibility … The way it works is that these guys remotely install malware in your computers; you’re almost never aware they have done it,” Pack said.
Once a cybercriminal has hacked into your email account, they can see every email you’ve received and sent. Additionally, at this point in the attack, the hacker has total control of your information and will reset your password, so you can no longer access it.
To protect yourself from hackers, educate yourself about common online threats, choose strong passwords for all of your accounts using a secure password generator , always think twice before clicking on suspicious links and purchase premium antivirus software, such as PC Tools’ Spyware Doctor with Antivirus.