Phishing, (pronounced fishing) according to Wikipedia, is “the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.”
There are well known ones going around, such as the Nigerian email scams or ones from various “banks” or “PayPal”, requesting that you click on a link to “verify” account details. Then the website captures personal details that can be used against you or to steal your money.
In some cases that we have had to deal with recently, scammers pretend to call on behalf of entities such as Microsoft or Telstra, claiming to have identified problems with the client’s machine, or an internet issue or something else and then offer to fix it. They use information that is easily obtainable including name, address and phone number and then try to get the confidence of the person that they are talking to. Once they have convinced their victim that they are trying to fix a problem, they usually request some sort of payment, or try to obtain credit card details or other personal information.
Be very wary of clicking on a link in an email! Even if it is from someone you know.
No reputable financial institution will ever send you an unsolicited email asking you to click on a link to verify an account or password, or ask you to enter financial details.
Rogue security software is defined in Wikipedia as “a form of Internet fraud using computer malware) that deceives or misleads users into paying money for fake or simulated removal of malware (so is a form of ransomware) — or it claims to get rid of, but instead introduces malware to the computer. Rogue security software has become a growing and serious security threat in desktop computing in recent years (from 2008 on).”
We have also seen this a lot in recent times. A program pops up, pretends to be running a virus scan and comes with a scary looking warning that the PC is infected with a number of viruses and requires the installation of the “full version” to remove the so-called viruses. In reality, this is another phishing scam as it is an attempt to obtain money and/or personal details by deception.
How can I avoid being a victim of these scams?
- Be suspicious of anyone claiming to be from Microsoft, Telstra, or from any other company that claims to want to fix a problem with your computer. Especially if they want to remote control your computer or require some sort of payment. Do not allow any unsolicited caller remote access to your computer under any circumstances! It is safer just to hang up the phone.
- Don’t click on any link in an email that asks you to enter personal or financial information, even if it looks legitimate.
- If an email arrives promising something too good to be true, then it probably is. This also applies to posts on social media sites like Facebook.
- Make sure you use a strong password on your Windows account and for your internet banking, etc.
- Make sure you apply the latest Windows updates and service packs to your system. However, if you are still using Windows XP, this facility is no longer available to you so we strongly recommend that you upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.1. See here for more information.
- Keep your internet browser up to date.
- Use a reputable Antivirus solution, keep you subscription current and your definitions up to date. For around $100 a year, the peace of mind is worth it and an expired or out of date antivirus product is really not much better than none at all. Norton’s, Kaspersky or Trend Micro are all good solutions. Microsoft Security Essentials is a free downloadable solution and is good for getting you out of trouble in an emergency. Microsoft also release a “Malicious Software Removal Tool” which is updated every month and is available for free through Windows Update or as a standalone download.
- If you use Adobe Reader or Java, make sure that these are updated as well.
- Avoid peer to peer sharing sites, torrents, etc. Malware quite often can sneak in, piggy-backing on downloads.
- Finally, be alert when downloading any software from the Internet. Sometimes vendors include “optional” programs, toolbars, search engines, etc. which can be installed without you realising. Use one reputable antivirus solution and stick with that. Use one search engine (we recommend Google or Bing) and stick with that. You don’t need anything else and the more clutter gets installed, the more your computer will slow down and misbehave.
Help I’ve been scammed, what should I do?
- If you have given a scammer your credit card details, contact your financial institution immediately. The inconvenience of waiting a week for a new card is far less than having your hard-earned money stolen.
- Avoid using facilities like internet banking or anything that requires you to enter personal or financial information.
- Run an antivirus scan on your computer.
- If you are still concerned about your computer’s security, please contact us for an inspection.