If you have received an email that looks like it is from Apple telling you that your Apple ID is about to expire, or something like that, delete the email and DO NOT click on the links in the email. If you do click on the link you will be asked to enter your Apple ID and Password. Once you do that, you will have compromised your data and credit card. It all looks very legitimate but it isn’t.
If you have done this, or do this, I suggest that you call Apple and have your Apple ID/Password changed. Check with them about any purchases through the iTunes store that you did not make, and check with your credit card company (the one you have on file with Apple) for charges you did not initiate.
The second scam originates with emails that appear to come from friends on WhatsApp. Here’s some information about this. Importantly, WhatsApp does not send out emails about missed messages. If you do click on the link your computer will be infected with malware.
Here is a good general rule to avoid theses types of scams: if you receive an email from a financial institution, a business, or any other third party that is asking you to click on a link to go to their website or download something, do not click on the link. If you think it might be legitimate, use your browser and login to the institution’s or business’ website. If the email was about an important issue you will most likely be informed when you login or view your messages on the site.
It’s tax time and that means that tax scams are in full swing. Most of the scams take one of two forms – phone calls and email. The phone calls are the scariest because if you’ve answered the phone, the person on the other end will identify as an IRS agent and,moreover, your Caller ID will probably read “IRS”. They will tell you that you owe money and offer ominous threats.
You may also get very official looking emails threatening you about money owed.
Neither is legitimate. Read this from the FTC about such scams.
The most important take away is that the IRS will never contact you by phone or email. I suggest that if your Caller ID reads “IRS” don’t even answer. If you get an email with IRS in the title, don’t open it – delete it.
Another scam to be aware of is email from Anthem or Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield. Anthem is the parent company of Empire, the largest health insurance company in New York State. They recently suffered a “hacking” breach. If you get an email from them asking for personal information delete it. If you are unsure call them. Use the phone number on your insurance card. Do not use the phone number in any email.
Ransomware! Did you read this article in the Times?
Ransomware is a particularly pernicious form of malware. It typically finds its way onto your computer when clicking on a link or an attachment from spam.
What happens next is your computer is locked and held for ransom — literally. You will be instructed to pay some amount of money to regain access. Even with virus scan software there is only one sure way to protect your computer, do regular backups. If this happens to you immediately unplug your external hard drives. If you have a current backup (you do backup, don’t you?), your system can be cleaned and restored without having to pay the ransom.
Many of you have heard my seminar on Internet Scams and Identity Theft. Just this past week I received two calls, automated calls, purporting to be from the IRS informing me that I have an outstanding balance and the IRS is about to issue a warrant for my arrest if I don’t call now. As I mention in my talk, this is a total scam, the IRS does not call you about outstanding balances. If you were to call the number on the recording you would be asked for your Social Security number and other identifying information that would be used to steal your identity. Just hang up on these calls. They are meant to scare you and they do sound scary but please, just hang up and ignore them. And, please, tell people you know who may be vulnerable to hang up on these calls.
I’ve received calls about having to refinance my mortgage; press 1 to accept the First Alert system that someone bought for me; a Nigerian prince left me money; and a friend is stuck in Istanbul and needs money to avoid jail.
The call I received today was a new one to me: “Hello, Sir. My name is ________. I’m from the International Computer Monitoring service and we’ve received automated reports from your Windows computer that it is not functioning correctly.”
“Really,” I said. “When do you receive this report?”
“Wow. I haven’t had the computer on for a few days.”
“Oh, well, the reports can take up to five days to get to us.”
And on this went until he hung up on me.
Bottom line, total scam. He wanted access to my computer probably to install some sort of malware and to charge me money for the experience.