In this blog post I'll walk you through two recent examples of scams that have targeted me. The first one I'll talk about made it through my spam filter this morning.
Here's the e-mail:
Let's start with the red flags:
I will need a few moments of your time to cover all related lottery-type information from procuring your prize to any related taxes.
Any time someone wants information for tax purposes, they want your social security number. This should cause alarm bells to ring. Loudly.
Then there's this line in the e-mail:
126.96.36.199 9/3/2006 0:19
This appears to be an IP address and a date and time. I believe this line is there to lend some kind of credibility to the e-mail, but the year says 2006 and the time is 19 minutes after midnight. Clearly something odd is going on.
Seeing that date lead me to look at the date of the e-mail, which is "April 25, 2007 4:14:23 AM MDT" -- and this is another red flag. A quick Google search tells us that North Aurora, Illinois (where this company is supposedly located) is in the Central time zone, so this e-mail went out at 5:14am Illinois time, which is a bit earlier than their own stated office hours:
P.S. For your convenience, we are available 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM Central Standard Time, Monday to Friday
As long as we're looking at the e-mail headers, let's take a look at the From address: cedwardsb -at- prize-claim-center.com. But the e-mail says its from "Michelle Ruland." Shouldn't that from address look more like mruland -at- prize-claim-center.com? Or micheller -at- prize-claim-center.com? It's another red flag.
By now its obvious that this is a scam, but as a final check, let's take a look at their website. We never click links in e-mails (and nor should you), but with proper protections in place, it can be okay to type a URL into your address bar. Instead of going to the referenced page used supposedly for unsubscribing from their list, let's check the site's home page:
...it's blank. No website there.
As a final note, there are a lot of these "claim your prize" type of e-mails out there. If you entered a drawing for a prize somewhere, you almost certainly gave your phone and mailing address. If you put your e-mail address on there as well, it will likely be used for spam and it will not be used to contact you about the prize. Finally, if you really did win, there would be specifics about when you filled out the form, where, what it was for, and what you won.
I received a phone call at home. The caller said he was with Discover card and wanted to confirm some charges on my account. I haven't used my Discover card in a long time -- in fact, I shredded it -- but even so, this sounded important and the caller rattled off a discover card number that was supposed to be mine. Then the caller asked me to confirm my identity by giving him my social security number. Whoa there! I've never had a fraud department ask for that information before. So although I was convinced that it was Discover calling, my skepticism kicked in and I asked if I could call him back. He gave me the real 800 number for Discover Card, which I confirmed after I got off the phone by going to their website. When I called Discover, they had no record of any charges on my account for several years and they confirmed what I already knew: it wasn't Discover who had contacted me. For good measure, I officially canceled the card on that call.
The big lesson here is again skepticism. Even very convincing, helpful, and friendly callers to your house who seem to know who you are and maybe other details about you, should not be trusted. If anyone, ever, calls you and then asks, for any reason, for details about you -- your address, mother's maiden name, social security number, etc. -- ask if you can call them back. Get their number, but then don't use the number they give you, instead look up the number on the Internet or in the phone book. Prudence will save you a world of headaches. Also, never trust Caller ID. Just because your phone says Discover Card Fraud Department is calling, doesn't make it so. That information is easy to fake.
Phishing scams are getting better. Phishers are able to reproduce their target websites much better now so all the broken links that used to be a dead giveaway are happening less frequently. If you get an e-mail ostensibly from your bank, paypal, ebay, or any official institution, don't follow the links in the e-mail. Use your own bookmarks or enter the official site into your URL bar directly. Do this every time. What you lose in convenience, you more than make up for in security and identity protection.
From the FTC website:
If a scam artist has contacted you or if you've been defrauded, contact the FTC at www.ftc.gov or 1-877-FTC-HELP. We gather evidence, identify fraud trends and alert law enforcement throughout the U.S., Canada, and abroad. By reporting your experience, you can prevent others from becoming victims and help put an end to fraud.
Here are e-mail addresses for forwarding scams, spam, phishing, and more (this has been compiled from different sources but most notably from the Internet Storm Center:
- uce -at- ftc.gov
- spamarchive.org is interested in any spam, but send it as an RFC822 attachment to submitautomated -at- spamarchive.org.
- Child pornography
- children -at- interpol.int
- gmail -at- cybertip.ca
- Do not send child porn e-mails to spamarchive.org or redistribute anywhere besides the above two addresses.
- Nigerian/419 scams
- 419.fcd -at- usss.treas.gov.
- OEM software
- netpiracy -at- siia.net
- piracy -at- microsoft.com
- reportphishing -at- antiphishing.org
- phish -at- ists.dartmouth.edu
- spam -at- mailpolice.com
- phishing-report -at- us-cert.gov
- phish -at- phishtank.com (but you have to register at phishtank.com first)
- Also: postmaster -at- corp.mailsecurity.net.au, spoof -at- millersmiles.co.uk, and report -at- reportphish.org, but send the mail as an RFC822 attachment.
- webcomplaints -at- ora.fda.gov
- drugs -at- interpol.int
- Pyramid scams
- fraud -at- uspis.gov
- steve.govin -at- rolex.com
- expert -at- lpconline.com
- Stock/pump and dump
- enforcement -at- sec.gov
- alctob -at- ttb.treas.gov
- Submit to Threat Center, Jotti, and Virus Total. Also, you can forward to av -at- annex.esoft.com.
Note: If you have updates or additions to the above list of e-mail addresses and websites, please post them in the comments.