A new scam may be hitting your inbox.
An employee of Rambler Newspapers recently received a threatening (if not poorly worded) E-mail claiming that their computer had been hacked and that the hacker had allegedly captured footage of them browsing X-rated sites:
“Even though i couldn’t find anything special for myself personally, i was able capture a few activities together with you browsing x rated s*** content material web pages. So i wound up doing a vid from this, split in half, and webpages you have been at. Came out excellent, even-though editing videos is not really my robust aspect. Anyhow, people around you should certainly love it.”
The hacker then threatened to send the footage to everyone in the employee’s contact list unless they wired $300 to the hacker’s Bitcoin account:
“Here’s the deal: I will offer you my financial transaction wallet address to be able to work out this issue over the following 3 dayz, 330 $ this is the total amount which should show up there. Everything is going to be gone, and even i will not trouble you again, if not gonna happen, please be sure every f***ing person from your list of contacts will see this s***.”
Although this E-mail was clearly a scam, there are other, far more sophisticated scams out there. Sometimes, they are even disguised as official-looking E-mails from banks, package delivery services, even Google itself. And many people fall for it. In fact, it is estimated that one in ten people will open a link or attachment in an E-mail without knowing where it comes from.
There are several steps you can take to protect yourself from Internet scams like these:
- Always be suspicious. Scam E-mails will often try to scare or pressure their victims into action. They will try to freak you out with warnings of stolen information or worse, and then offer an easy fix if you just “click here.” A good rule of thumb is this: when in doubt, don’t click. Instead, open your browser, go to the company’s official website, then sign in normally to see if there are any signs of strange activity. Also, never reply to suspicious E-mails. This will show that the E-mail account the scammers are targeting is “active,” and they’ll keep going after you.
- Check for bad spelling and grammar. This is a tell-tale sign of a scam. Most scam E-mails come from outside the US, and are riddled with spelling mistakes and bad grammar, like the one our employee received. Especially in the case of fake corporation E-mails, big companies will hire professionals to make sure their E-mails are worded properly, and if you’re looking at one that doesn’t, it’s almost certainly a fake.
- Beef up your browser security. An accidental click of a bad link doesn’t have to spell disaster. Look for browser add-ons from trusted sites (such as McAfee, Malwarebytes, etc.) that will warn you if the site you’re about to visit is suspected of malicious activity.
- Be careful when using your phone to view E-mail. If you’re checking E-mail on your phone, it might be more difficult to spot a scam attempt. You can’t “mouse over” a questionable link, and the smaller screen makes you less likely to spot obvious gaffes. Although many phone browsers are immune from harmful sites and downloads, it’s still good to exercise caution when dealing with suspicious links.
- Most of all, rely on common sense. You can’t win a contest you didn’t enter. Your bank won’t contact you using an E-mail address you never registered. And hackers can’t have footage of you visiting X-rated sites if you never go to those sites in the first place. Know the warning signs, think before you click, and never, ever give out your password or financial info unless you’re properly signed into your account.