Alarm raised as surveys and tests reveal spam avalanche and security flaws: Internet ScamBusters #292
Today we give you some behind-the-scenes glimpses about the spam avalanche, how fast, easy and widespread identity theft is (this almost surprised us!) and what a couple of organizations are doing about it. You'll find Snippets that document what's happening in the world right now.
One study shows the US is the world's biggest target for spammers and that Nigerian money scams show up everywhere around the globe. Others reveal that ID theft takes, by far, the biggest share of the fraud business -- and that the Internet is not the only potential scene of the crime.
But first, we highly recommend you check out this week's issue of Scamlines -- What's New in Scams?
And now for today's Snippets...
Spam: A fascinating new study shows what really happens
The study: Supplied with new laptops and never-used fake email addresses by security firm McAfee, 50 volunteers from 10 countries surf the Internet. With minimal security on their PCs, they spread their phony email addresses and respond to as much spam as they can for a month.
The result: During the month, they receive a total of 104,000 spam emails -- by far the highest proportion showing up in the US -- PLUS 24,000 spam "newsletters," selling everything from knock-off designer watches to drugs. Men receive more spam than women.
That's an average of 70 per person per day, with one participant receiving as many as 600 bulk emails on some days. The first spam arrived within just 24 hours!
Many of the emails phish for users' personal details or offer adult content. And surfers in every single country in the survey -- the US, Brazil, Italy, Mexico, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Australia -- are besieged by money scams from Nigeria.
The lesson: No matter who you are and where you live, you'll get spam and scams. Security software can help reduce the flow and alert you to dangers, but it's also up to you to learn how to spot this evil when it shows up in your inbox.
Remember: NEVER respond to spam, no matter how "tempting" the offer. You'll just get more. And as we always say, "if it's spam, it's a scam."
Collect some tips on stopping spam on our site.
FTC wants to know ID theft victims better
The plan: The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announces plans for a major survey of identity theft victims. It confirms that in 2007, ID theft accounted for almost one third of Internet crime, with reported fraud losses in the US totaling more than $1.2 billion.
The main aims of the survey are to find out how victims are dealt with by the credit reporting agencies and what else can be done to help them.
The FTC worries that new federal and state laws aimed at shielding potential victims aren't making one iota of difference. The Commission also thinks security firms aren't doing enough to protect data.
What you can do: If you reported identity theft to the FTC between January and end-May, you can take part in this study. Closing date is September 2, 2008. More info here:
Bogus officials walk off with bank data
The test: As if to prove the FTC's point that firms don't do enough to protect data, researchers testing bank security show how easy it is to steal files and other physical data.
Posing as officials of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the researchers descend on the offices of a big credit union.
They carry bogus ID but the credit union staff don't even bother to look at it, offering to give the visitors any help they need.
The visitors walk around with clipboards, examining files and, in one case, actually removing folders from a desk. The bogus officials even question staff about internal security and alarm systems and record a video of the whole thing.
The security company involved claims 100% success in "stealing" thousands of identities from scores of banks.
What you can do: What do you know about how your bank protects your hard-copy data? Inquire next time you're there -- and if you're not satisfied, ask to see the manager or change banks.
MoneyGram offers $1.1 million for public education campaign
The plan: If you know anything about financial scams, you'll know that criminals usually ask for their funds to be wired electronically. That way they get the cash fast and you can't get it back.
And if you know that, you probably also know that many scammers use a perfectly legitimate electronic transfer service called MoneyGram.
Now, MoneyGram has agreed to contribute $1.1 million to educate consumers nationwide about wire transfer fraud.
Another wire company, Western Union, did the same sort of thing a couple of years back, financing a campaign run via AARP.
MoneyGram also agreed to continue to allow consumers to cancel pending wire transfers from any of its offices or via 1-800-922-7146 and to take other steps to improve security.
The crime may not be their fault but they owe it to their customers to do everything in their power to protect them.
We've covered problems with electronic money transfers in several Scambusters articles. Check these out:
It's good news that the scale of ID theft and other scams are finally getting more publicity and that organizations like the FTC and MoneyGram are taking these steps in tackling these crimes.
That's all we have for today, but we'll be back next week with another issue. See you then!