Sophisticated Scams To Fool Anyone
Image by Stephen Key/SJKeyChronicles
So You Think You Know It All
Scam artists are as intelligent as any criminal element out there. I once heard a statement from a preacher on radio who said “criminals involved in money crimes could earn ten times as much legitimately as they do illegally because they are smart”. They choose to do the latter because of the thrill of discovering that they can get away with it. For how long? Doesn’t matter! It’s in their mantra, kind of like a diseases.
The other thing is, they know the savvy customer is wise to their past tricks and have upped their game several notches. Once you think you have seen it all and can recognize all the legitimate stuff from the bogus information-gathering emails, you are hooked.
The current trend will take your breath away. They have cleverly duplicated logos and data info boxes to look every bit like what you are customer to on the bank sites, money transfer links, and your favorite shopping networks.
First Step Of Con Artists
If you think the hackers can’t duplicate what you are used to seeing on the login page of your favorite vendors, think again. If they make the entry boxes look exactly the same, they risk getting flagged by plagiarism seeking search engines.
The real trick they have learned is to get the “appearance” so close that you can’t tell the difference, no matter how smart you are. If they require you to login first before you even get to see the questions they want you to answer, they’ve got your password right off the bat, even if you abort the rest of the info interview.
They already know your email address which, in most cases, automatically becomes your user ID. So once you have sacrificed your password to their hacker-hungry databases, they can get into bank or vendor accounts with no trouble at all.
Social Security Hacks
I recently set up a Kindle Direct Publishing Account with Amazon. To complete the setup process for sales of my publications, I had to fill out a tax form and provide my social security number to complete the application. But I pulled up the trusted website on my own and verified that it was a secure site.
But that left me vulnerable to sophisticated cons who sent me a very authentic-looking query stating that some of the information I provided was incomplete and I needed to verify my latest input. To get to the questionnaire, I had to login first, and voila! They had my password.
I called Amazon to verify the emailed request form, the customer rep told me they had no record on file of that email and advised me to disregard it. They then sent me a password reset link and I promptly changed it. But that was okay because I was long overdue for a new one anyway.
The main thing I noticed, once I logged in to the questionnaire, was the request to update my social security number. That was an immediate red flag and that is when I called Amazon. Even the Social Security Administration is doing what it can to ward off these sinister operatives by requiring you to receive and verify a code sent to your email address or cell phone number.
No site should ask for your SSA number unless you are required to complete an application for selling products and the entity is sending you sales proceeds. They are required by law to report your earnings to the IRS. Any other type of SSA request from any vendor is a no-no.
What Can You Do
1. Don’t be lazy. Verify all requests by making a phone call to your bank or vendor to make sure the request is legitimate. Don’t use the phone number you see on the email request form. Login to their secure website for contact info.
2. If you’ve been required to login first, and find out its a scam, waste no time in changing your ID and Password. Automatic Data bases are sending your info to cartels that pay good money for your info as you type away.
3. Never give out your SSA number unless you go to a secured (with https or lock symbol embedded in the website address) and also legitimate website on your own. If you don’t see the duplicate request in their message or documents section, then you have a problem. Ask for a customer rep immediately.
4. Never think you are smart enough to avoid the scams. Once you reach that point in your mind, you are a prime victim. If they find clever ways to get past the radar of someone like you, then everyone else is an easy target.
All vendors and banks and credit card issuers should have links to websites that deal with scams designed to lure their customers into the perpetrator’s webs. If you use one like PayPal, Amazon, or Ebay, they should have reporting sites set up where you can send the scam email link directly to.
If you don’t report it because you don’t care if they attack someone else, how would you feel if you were hacked by a subversive they already dealt with and didn’t report it. It’s the “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” philosophy.
And don’t even pull up websites that have sketchy information on their meta description. It is what you first see when you engage your search engine to find what you are looking for. If it’s back-loaded with a virus, you may be in trouble as soon as you click on the link. When your computer starts going haywire, you’ll wish you had better hindsight. Beware!
I am requesting that my readers click on the links provided and download a sample read of each book and give a review on Amazon. You will have free access to the first four chapters of each book. My hope is that you will like the story lines enough to obtain either an eBook version or a paperback copy that you can put on your bookshelf when you are done.