How the Skype scam (using Internet phone calls) and business directories snare victims: Internet Scambusters #386
In this week's Snippets issue we feature two phone-related tricks -- the Skype scam and the Yellow Pages con.
Both are the latest examples of Internet fraud: Skype for dangerous malware, advance fee scams and phishing, and Yellow Pages for phony invoices.
As we explain, Internet security software, common sense and vigilance will stop them dead in their tracks.
Now, here we go...
Skype Scam Delivers Spam and Malware
Say it loud and it sounds like the start of a tongue-twister, but "Skype scam" is far more mischievous and troublesome than that.
Skype is a software program that enables you to use the Internet to make free or cheap phone and video calls, with tens of millions of users throughout the world.
Owned by eBay, it's the biggest of a number of outfits providing a similar service using what's known as "VoIP" (Voice Over Internet Protocol).
But being the biggest also makes it the most vulnerable to a VoIP scam and several have emerged as the program's popularity has grown.
We won't get technical, so if you want to know more about Skype, visit their website. And if you're already a user, you need to be on the alert for a Skype scam.
The most common Skype scam is the use of Skype for spaham (intentionally misspelled), including the Nigerian advance payment scam and lottery scams.
See these earlier issues for more on Nigerian and lottery scams.
Since Skype is one of those programs that, if installed, can launch by default when you start up your computer, it sits there ready and waiting whether you're using it or not.
If, also by default, your Skype is set to show you are online, any other Skype user can send you a message. Hence the spaham.
To avoid this, you might want to change your status to "invisible" (though this means genuine users won't be able to "see" you either) or even stop Skype from launching when your computer starts.
Both of these can be done via Skype's Options setting, but if you need more guidance use the program's Help or visit the Skype website.
A more insidious Skype scam arrives on your computer via malware -- viruses, Trojans and other nasty programs you unintentionally download and install on your computer by clicking on infected email attachments or visiting malicious websites.
To learn more about malware, check out this earlier Scambusters issue: Protect Yourself from Fake Anti-Virus Software.
In the case of this Skype scam, the malware records your phone conversations. You might wonder who would be remotely interested in your private discussions, but you'd be surprised what information you might give away in a conversation.
Another malware-related Skype scam involves opening an email attachment claiming to be a "Skype toolbar for Outlook."
This is a new Skype scam, first seen in March and expected to increase in incidence in the coming months. It installs spyware on your PC.
Skype is also used for phishing. In this case, a spaham message pretends to be a malware warning from "Skype Security Center." But if you click on the link in the message -- guess what -- malware is exactly what you get.
To avoid these Skype scams, simply make sure you have up to date Internet security software installed. Then apply our usual rule about not opening attachments or clicking on links in messages from people you don't know.
Yellow Pages Scam Switches to Online Directories
Let's switch the focus now to another phone-related scam -- the use of the "Yellow Pages" name to con victims.
In an earlier issue, we explained how scammers use the Yellow Pages name and the "walking fingers" logo by sidestepping trademark rules: Invoice scams: 5 tricks fraudsters use to get your money.
They send out renewal notices to small businesses by clipping out their existing directory listing and sending an official looking invoice.
This scam is still going great guns. Having swept the US, it's now tearing through Canada.
But a newer version has, like pretty much every other scam, moved online, using the non-copyrighted tag of "Online Yellow Pages" (which is also used by legitimate directory companies in their marketing).
Again, the caller (or, in a few recent cases, a fax message) says they want to update the victim's online listing, or they may make a phony offer to add your existing (legit) listing to an Internet directory.
The point here is that these tricksters may actually publish your details (on paper or online) but in directories that are next to useless -- neither promoted nor distributed effectively.
This enables the scam artists to actually stay inside the law.
If you're running a small business, whether you have or have not advertised in Yellow Pages type directories, be very wary about unsolicited telesales calls or official looking invoices and order forms.
Don't place a listing order without thoroughly checking out the solicitor. And check the sender details and the fine print on any documents you receive.
Let's face it, telephones (the "old-fashioned" sort, cell phones and the Internet variety) have been a mainstay in our lives for decades and we'd be lost without them.
But make sure you don't lose out in a different way -- by falling for a Skype scam or a Yellow Pages scam.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!