Phishing Scams: How You Can Protect Yourself

Phishing scams, Internet access services cams, and Web cramming scams Internet ScamBusters #67

Today we’ve got a lot of important news for you — about ‘phishing,’ Internet access service, and Web cramming scams.

So, let’s get going…

Internet ScamBusters Snippets

‘Phishing’ Scams Growing Like Crazy

We’ve talked about ‘Phishing’ scams before, but we never explained what ‘phishing’ actually means. And, we have two new variants.

The term comes from techies who like to replace the letter ‘f’ with ‘ph.’ So, the term applies to scamsters who are ‘phishing’ for your private information, to steal your credit card or bank info — or worse, your identity.

We described some of the major ‘phishing’ scams in Issue #63:


There are two new variants we wanted to let you know about.

The first is the generic version of the bank scams we talked about in Issue #63. We saw this for the first time this week. Here’s a sample. (Note: spelling errors are in actual emails.)


Dear Online Banking Consumer,

This email was sent by your Online Banking center to verify your e-mail address. You must complete this process by entering required iformation like your Online Banking login and password. This is done for your protection — becaurse some of our members no longer have access to their email addresses and we must verify it. Please, complete the following information:

Bank Routing/ABA Number (9 digits): First 6 digits of your Banking Card: Online Banking Login ID (CIN or CAN):

Your Online Banking Password (or PIN):

The second one is almost funny — except that innocent people are getting taken:

You credit card has been charged for $234.65

Important notice

We have just charged your credit card for money laundry service in amount of $234.65 (because you are either child po… graphy webmaster or deal with dirty money, which require us to layndry them and then send to your checking account).

If you feel this transaction was made by our mistake, please press “No.”

If you confirm this transaction, please press “Yes” and fill in the form below.

Enter your credit card number here:

Enter your credit card expiration date:

What do you do if you get an email like this?

Nothing. Delete the email! It’s a scam.

Legitimate banks and organizations may send you offers and coupons via email, but they do NOT ask for your personal and banking information via email.

If you have any question about the legitimacy of an email, go to the official website directly, or call or email the company. Never click on the link in the email.

ACTION: Never, ever, ever respond to emails that ask for personal info.

Internet Access Service Scams

This scam, which has changed quite a bit over the past several years, makes it onto the Federal Trade Commission’s list of Top Ten ‘DotCons.’

In the early days (in the late 1990s), this scam was launched by sending victims a check through snail mail (and this still goes on).

It seemed as if you were getting money for doing nothing. But the scam was that by cashing the check, you were agreeing to purchase Internet access, usually at exorbitant prices, for what may as well be the rest of your life.

If you tried to cancel the service you’d find that there were hefty cancellation fees.

Avoiding this scam is reasonably easy: never sign anything, even the back of a check, without reading over any material that you received along with the ‘free’ money.

In the last few years, this scam has evolved to bundling Internet access with free or low-cost computers.

You may be asked to pay for the computer up front and receive a rebate of most of the purchase price when you sign the contract for the Internet access.

In most cases you’ll be ‘locked in’ to the access — sometimes for as much as several years.

You may be forced to dial a long distance number to access the service. And if you try to cancel, the penalties are onerous. You may even have to return a portion of the rebate if you cancel the Internet service.

It’s usually a LOT cheaper to lease or finance the computer.

Avoid this scam by remembering that if a deal seems too good to be true… it probably is!

Read the fine print on any ‘free’ PC deal you see online or receive and pay particular attention to whether it is mandatory to have Internet access bundled in with the computer.

And if you receive the offer via email ‘spaham,’ don’t even waste your time reading it — it’s a scam.

Web Cramming

Web cramming is another scam to make it onto the FTC’s Top Ten list.

This scam is usually initiated with a telephone call and the target is either individuals or small business owners. We’ve talked about this scam for individuals before — here’s the small business owner version:

The caller offers your business a customized website for 30 days free of charge. After the introductory period, a monthly fee of $20-$30 will apply.

Sometimes victims are told that they will be automatically billed after the 30 days is up. Other times victims are told that they won’t be billed unless they authorize the continuation of the service.

The FTC reports that regardless of what is said during the call, victims are automatically being billed for this ‘service’ whether they authorize it or not.

This scam would be slightly less distasteful if you in fact received something of value for your money. However, the websites that are constructed are usually poorly done, full of errors and misspellings… and essentially useless to your business.

To guard against this scam you should:

– Be aware that you have no obligation to pay for services you haven’t specifically ordered. If you receive a bill for a service you didn’t order, do not pay it.

– Keep a close eye on your phone bills. This is where the charges for this type of scam may show up. Review your bills as soon as they are received and question any charges that you haven’t ordered or authorized.

– Ask for documentation any time you purchase anything by any method (online, over the phone, in person or via fax).

– Designate one or two staff as responsible for purchasing and restrict purchasing to these individuals.

– Alert your staff about scams of this type and how to deal with scammers on the telephone.

Wishing you a scam-free October.