How many times have you received emails asking for personal information and assistance in return for a share in vast sums of money? How about the ones that warn you of the imminent suspension of your credit card, or closure of your email account? And then there are the ones that tug at your heart strings about some desperately ill child in Eastern Europe who will die if you don’t send some money or forward the email to 10 other people with the same request.
And what about when a major recognised bank asks for account security update information? They direct you to a site that looks completely real and ask you to confirm your personal information, account numbers and passwords.
Have you been the recipient of an email purporting to be from someone you know well who is ‘stranded in Barcelona where their wallet has been stolen and they desperately need you to transfer some money so they can get back home’? Hopefully, before you panicked, you called the same friend who was right here in Barbados and had no idea what you were talking about?
You may be familiar with the lottery scams announcing you have won a fortune and asking you to send personal information and often a sum of money to claim your prize. Some even appear to be on convincing headed paper, or from what looks like a legitimate email address. Others verge on the illiterate. Well, be very clear about this. There is no lottery and you have won no prize.
If you receive any of these scam emails, it is important that you do not respond to them in any way. The scammers are likely to act upon any response from those they see as potential victims. Delete the emails at once, no matter how urgent they sound – even if they claim your credit card or bank account is about to be closed. If in doubt, phone your credit card company or bank direct.
Most of these scams are what are known as ‘phishing’ and are designed either to extort money from you, or steal your identity. You would be horrified by how little of your information is required in order to steal your identity.
Never, ever click on links in these emails. Go back to Internet Explorer (or other browser) and type in the usual address you use to access the website of your bank, credit card company or email account. It is also advisable to change your password every so often and you should never, repeat never, give your password or PIN number to anyone.
And please stop circulating virus warnings. Some of these date back 10 or more years. Before you start emailing all your friends, highlight and copy a phrase in the warning, go to Google, and paste the phrase in the search bar, putting quotation marks before and after the phrase. You will be amazed that 99 times out of 100 you will discover thousands of entries proving this is a hoax, and probably an old one. It will also advise if there is any genuine aspect within the overall hoax.
Good websites for information on all hoaxes, including the ubiquitous ‘working from home’ scams are: www.snopes.com and www.hoax-slayer.com.
Emails can connect you with the world, business associates, family and friends. But you must take care. Not everyone has good intentions for getting in touch with you.
*Join Michael Goodman & Peter Boyce on Bajan Living every Monday, 2-3pm, on 100.7 QFM Barbados or online at qfm.bb. Sponsored by Carib Rehab and COB.