How Chat Rooms, Fake Customer Reps, and Phony Surveys Steal Your Info

Snippets issue exposes continuing chat room scams: Internet Scambusters #882

Although online chat rooms are not as popular as they used to be, they’re still a big hit with scammers.

And in other new tricks, they’re hiding behind top online trading names like Amazon and American Airlines to trick victims into giving their sign-on details.

We’ll explain their latest tactics in this week’s Snippets issue

Let’s get started…


How Chat Rooms, Fake Customer Reps and Phony Surveys Steal Your Info


Remember chat rooms? At one time, they were all the rage — online meeting places where users with similar interests could virtually gather to ask questions and discuss topics.

Back in the 90s, more than half of all teenagers and a quarter of adults were regular users.

You don’t hear so much about them these days and the number of users has plummeted, with other social media becoming the preferred forums.

But, for certain interests like dating, very specialist interests and, ahem, adult-type issues, they’re still flourishing.

And so is targeting these particular groups for scams and other crimes.

A favorite trick is to include links in a posting, claiming they’ll connect with relevant photos or videos relating to the chat room topic.

We’re always warning of the dangers of clicking links but often in chat rooms, they’re an essential part of the way they operate.

In this case, however, clicking the links downloads malware. One increasingly common trick, most recently found on dating sites, uploads pornography onto the victim’s computer or phone.

Then the scammer poses as someone from law enforcement and demands payment of a fine, stating that pornography has been detected on their device.

Even if they realize it’s a scam, some victims may be reluctant to report it to the police for fear of being accused of downloading porn. However, police can easily detect the source of such downloads, proving that the victim was not involved.

It’s possible too that the scammers may simply contact victims directly, threatening to expose them if they don’t pay.

Either way, if this happens to you, you definitely shouldn’t pay. And safely report the crime to police.

You should also be wary about clicking links in chat rooms, and be sure to run security software after each visit.

Phony Amazon Reps

And would you be wary if you received a telephone call or a link from a customer service rep who says he/she is from online retailing giant Amazon?

Well, it’d be very unusual for Amazon to make an unsolicited call, though they will often call you if you ask them to first.

But posing as an Amazon rep is just one of many effective tricks that scammers use to try to get hold of your sign-on information and other account details.

If they tell you there’s a problem with your account, you might be inclined to believe them, since most of us do buy from Amazon and occasionally encounter blips.

But if this “rep” then asks for your username and password, you can be one hundred percent sure it’s a phishing scam because Amazon never asks for your password.

What the crook is after is not only the ability to buy stuff on your dollar, but also to get ahold of other useful information such as the three-digit security code on the back of the card.

Sometimes, the scammers realize you wouldn’t be so naive as to give out your password so easily. So, instead, they say they’ll email you a link to a secure sign-on area where you can verify your information.

That’s even worse, because now victims who visit these fake Amazon-looking sites will not only have to disclose their sign-on information but also their full credit card number and other personal details.

If anyone calls you claiming to be from Amazon, chances are high it’s a scam. Even if you think it might be genuine, don’t follow any email link they offer. Instead, go to amazon.com and sign in there to check your account.

Amazon also provides very detailed guidance on how to check if an email, web page or call is genuine, here: About Identifying Whether an E-mail, Phone Call, or Webpage is from Amazon.

Fake Airline Survey

Another clever phishing trick comes in the guise of a request for you to take a survey about recent air travel. Or it may pretend to be a change notification for a flight you recently booked.

It looks like it comes from a well-known airline — we’ve seen several including Delta and American — and if that happens to coincide with an airline you recently used, it’d be easy to think it’s genuine.

Once again, there’s a clickable link that takes you to a fake sign-on page. But in some cases, there’s also an extra sneaky trick: When you try to click on a link, nothing happens. Then you spot a message, saying if you’re having difficulty you can view the message online by clicking another link.

This is particularly clever because we’re used to seeing links just like these on genuine messages.

Furthermore, we’re also accustomed to getting survey requests from people we’ve done business with that don’t actually use the firm’s regular web address. It may, for instance, use the name of the survey company.

So, there are a number of reasons why this scam might seem convincing. But remember this: A survey company would never ask for your sign-on details.

And if the message seems to come from an airline, check it independently by keying in the airline’s Internet address and check your account there. Or use the airline’s smartphone app.

Alert of the Week

We have another Amazon scam to alert you to this week: A voicemail asking you to verify that you signed-up for the retailer’s Amazon Prime membership.

It warns that the fee is about to be charged to your account and that if you disagree, you must phone a toll-free number. But if you do, you’ll be asked for your account details.

Phooey! Just hang up. And if you’re unsure, again go to amazon.com and check things from there.

Time to close today, but we’ll be back next week with another issue. See you then!