Check your Internet -- are you infected by the DNSChanger virus?: Internet Scambusters #495
A temporary solution for an Internet ad scam could result in thousands of users being forced offline in July, when that solution is switched off.
It's easy to check and avoid this simply by visiting a site specially set up for victims, as we explain in this week's Snippets issue.
We also warn of a new type of "pump and dump" investment scam, and offer more tips on how to deal with cellphone spam.
Now, here we go...
Will You Lose Your Internet Connection on July 9?
They're calling it "Doomsday" and, for some, it will be on July 9, when hundreds of thousands of victims face the possibility of being unable to connect to the Internet.
Ironically, that's because of a decision by the FBI to switch off a special program that has been keeping more than half a million infected PCs online since last year.
Victims likely don't know their machine has been infected and, if they don't check, come July 9 the Internet will just plain disappear for them.
Their computers are infected with a piece of malware known as "DNSChanger" that connected them to servers running a now-defunct online advertising scam.
These servers were in turn connected to the Internet, so victims wouldn't necessarily realize what happened, apart from their PCs maybe slowing down a little.
The malware also disabled virus-checker updates so even people who had Internet security software couldn't detect it.
Then, when users tried to access certain websites or run a search, they were directed to bogus web pages full of ads, which netted the crooks an estimated $14 million.
We don't need to go into the technical details of how this was done, but when police seized the scammers' computers they were left with a problem -- those half million victims were now reliant on them to connect to the Internet.
So the FBI replaced them with "clean" machines that would keep the Internet link open -- without the scam running.
Victim computers, of course, still have the virus but without anything nasty happening.
But when the FBI switches off its servers, those machines will lose their online connection and won't know where to find the Internet!
Are you one of the victims?
Fortunately, there's a relatively easy way to check and to put things right thanks to a website that can detect infected machines and provide instructions on how to set things right again.
Simply go to DNS Changer Check-Up -- and you will either get a green (for "clear") or red (for "infected") page.
The check does not download any software onto your PC. Nor does it run a scan. It just checks where your computer is looking for the Internet.
If you're in the clear, that's all you need do.
If it says your computer is infected, go to DNS Changer Working Group (DCWG) for free removal tools and more information on what to do next.
If you don't want to click directly on any of these links, key in and go to DCWG, a site specially set up by the FBI and Internet security specialists to deal with this online advertising scam.
Beware of Stock Tip Robots
A new variation on bogus investment tip scams involves a so-called "robot" that is supposed to be able to predict share price movements.
Investors are lured into paying a regular subscription for such services on the promise that a sophisticated program can pinpoint great share-buying opportunities.
Of course, genuine advisers and even some investors do use computer programs to support their investment strategy but in the scam version, crooks either don't have the software or, if they do, it turns out to be useless.
Even worse, in a recent incident, two British brothers were alleged to have duped 75,000 American investors into subscribing to their robot service (nicknamed "Marl") that was also being used for a "pump and dump" scheme.
Not only were they charging a subscription for their non-existent robot but they also were allegedly accepting payments to promote particular stocks, pushing up prices (pumping) so the perpetrators could then sell (dump) their own holdings for a fat profit.
Federal regulators have recently filed a civil suit against the pair, claiming they took in $1.2 million in subscriptions over four years, and racked up a further $1.9 million from stock promoters.
Just remember, if a program could really make accurate predictions, why would we need advisers? Everyone would be making a fortune.
That's technically impossible! For every stock market winner, there has to be a loser.
For more on pump and dump schemes see our earlier report, Investing Safely.
Here Comes Sir Spamalot!
Finally, in the never-ending battle to defeat spammers calling and messaging your cell phone, we recently came across an interesting article on the TidBITS news site for Apple users.
Blogger Glenn Fleishman explains two interesting techniques for handling incoming spam.
For voice calls, he suggests setting up a bogus contact (who he calls "Sir Spamalot") for which you store the numbers of the incoming calls.
Since many spammers use the same set of numbers, your phone software will recognize the call and you can simply ignore it or send it to voicemail.
You can also use this for text messages, but should additionally report the spam to your phone service provider so that it is blocked in future.
Fleishmann explains how to do this on an iPhone using the ATT network, though he says other service providers probably operate the same way.
Check out his article, Report Text Message Spam to AT&T.
We also wrote about the wider issue of cellphone spam in an earlier report, Mobile World Sparks Cell Phone Spam Onslaught.
That's three new scam warnings for you this week, a powerful reminder to always be on your guard.
And don't forget to run that Doomsday check on your PC -- we want you to still be here with us on the Internet on July 10!
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!