Protect yourself from photo theft hackers and property/auto con tricks: Internet Scambusters #533
Photo theft, fake Property Watch programs, sneaky high-pressure car insurance sales and extortion threats linked to online romance feature in this week's Snippets issue of Scambusters.
We also have the latest alarming statistics on online fraud from Great Britain.
Plus, staying in Europe, we've a nasty sting in the tail -- a YouTube video showing data theft in action, and how easy it is. If you want your eyes opened, watch this short and entertaining (in a worrisome sort of way) film.
Let's check out today's...
Snippets Issue: Photo Theft, Bogus Property Watch, Fake DMV and More
While you take steps to protect your computer data, are you doing enough to protect your PC from photo theft?
And what else might you unknowingly give away to crooks -- like your upcoming travel plans?
Or how about falling for a simple con trick that uses an official name to sell you auto insurance?
For all this and more, read on in this week's Snippets issue.
Photo Stealing Hackers
You've "locked up" all your computer data to keep it safe from hackers, but what about your photos?
According to Internet security firm ESET, crooks now have software that can steal images off your hard drive -- and they're using it.
Why would they steal your pictures? Well, increasingly we use our smartphones to capture pictures of documents, like receipts, which we then transfer to our PCs.
Plus, photos may carry useful personal identification information, like street addresses and property ownership.
Hackers could also be looking for images to use on "adult" sites or even to be used for blackmail.
Of course, first they need to get their photo-stealing software onto your PC. Keep them out with strong security software, avoiding visits to unsafe sites, and ignoring attachments on emails (especially from people you don't know).
You can also prevent your PC from running downloaded software without warning you. Find out how to set this up online or in your user guide/manual.
And don't forget to vet your own photos for personal info giveaways before posting them online.
Bogus Property Watch
Police Property Watch programs are a great supplement to neighborhood security -- provided they're genuine. But that's not always the case.
Posing as law enforcement officers, scammers in Indiana have been phoning residents asking if they plan to leave town, so police can keep an eye on their property.
In reality, they're scoping out information on when a property will be empty, so they can burglarize it.
This crime likely will spread to other areas. The solution is to not give out details of your travel plans to an incoming caller or email message, no matter how genuine it seems.
If you want to use Property Watch services, phone your local Police Department yourself.
Not the DMV
Dubious, high-pressure sales people have come up with a sneaky new trick to sell auto insurance -- posing as officials from state DMVs (Departments of Motor Vehicles).
Victims receive phone calls saying they've been identified as overpaying for their car insurance. The caller then offers to put them in touch with an insurer who will charge much less.
Sometimes, the scammer also requests additional information about vehicle ownership.
Action: Hang up on this type of call. DMVs don't advise people on insurance rates, don't disclose information to insurers, and don't ask for personal details over the phone.
Watch out too for websites that try to pass themselves off as the DMV or connected with it.
They're mainly used for phishing or selling phony services, and they may even turn up in online searches.
Your local DMV office will have an Internet address that ends in ".gov." Anything else is a fake.
And when we say "ends in," that's what we mean. If it ends with something like ".gov.org," it's not the genuine item.
Dating Extortion Threats
Internet dating has turned out to be a great way of meeting new people and potential partners for many people, but, as we've previously highlighted, it's also a flourishing front for scams.
Now the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) says criminals are using dating sites to lure victims into making explicit statements they later regret.
Then the crooks send text messages to victims with links to what appears to be an unconnected site where their comments have been reproduced.
In some cases, the site appears to be a list of people who cheat on their partners. It may include photos and phone numbers.
In other instances, the site only gives a hint of the information but offers to show what it's got on you for $9.
Victims are then offered the opportunity to remove all the information for $99.
Action: First, avoid the sort of online conversations that would land you in this kind of trouble.
But if you do receive this type of threat, report it to IC3 or the local police.
Paying up is unlikely to remove the listing. The crooks will just keep on asking you for more money.
UK Fraud Haul
A frightening indication of the scale and growth of online fraud comes in a recent report from the UK showing that more than $50 billion is lost to Internet scammers every year.
This accounts for about half of all fraud, according to the (London) Daily Telegraph, and it hits retailers as much as it affects individuals.
In fact, the newspaper reports that the crime is soaring so fast that police are struggling to stem the tide of online fraud.
The report also highlights a scam feature we frequently report on: crimes targeting older folk.
Seniors forked out over $5.5 billion on investment scams alone in the past year, says the Telegraph, quoting London Police Commissioner Adrian Leppard.
Want to know how easy it is to get information about you on the Internet?
One very popular YouTube video shows some of the ways (caveat: this page is not necessarily G rated).
If you want to see it, you can go to YouTube.com and search for: Amazing mind reader reveals his 'gift'.
It's sobering, isn't it?
In a way it takes us back to the item we opened with -- photo theft. Not only is the stuff you post online unsafe, but so too is the material on your PC, unless you protect it properly.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.