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Holiday Season Cyber Scammers Target Victims

By Dan Hadaway | Monday, December 1, 2008 - Leave a Comment

The FBI is reminding people this holiday season that cyber criminals continue to aggressively seek ways to steal money and personal information. Scammers are using several techniques to fool potential victims including sending unsolicited e-mails that contain attachments such as electronic greeting cards containing malware (malicious software), setting up spoofing websites that look like legitimate commercial sites, and unleashing phishing and vishing attacks where individuals receive e-mails asking for personal data.

“These cyber scammers will do whatever they can to steal your money and personal
information this holiday season and are trying many different ways to commit these
crimes. The best way to protect yourself is to report these scams to law enforcement
or the Internet Crime Complaint Center, IC3,” said Shawn Henry, Assistant Director, FBI Cyber Division, Washington, D.C.

In the greeting card scam, the cards, which are also referred to as e-cards or postcards,
are being sent via spam. Like many other Internet fraud schemes, the criminals use
social engineering tactics to entice the victim, claiming the card is from a family member or friend. Although there have been variations in the spam message and attached
malware, generally the spam directs the recipient to click the link provided in
the e-mail to view the e-card. Upon clicking the link, the recipient is unknowingly
taken to a malicious webpage.

Spoofing scams are when criminals create a false or shadow copy of a real website
or e-mail in a way that misleads the recipient. All network traffic between the
victim’s browser and the shadow page are sent through the spoofer’s machine. This
allows the spoofer to acquire personal information, such as passwords, credit card
numbers, and account numbers.

Even though the e-mail looks like the real thing, complete with authentic logos
and working web links, it’s a fake. The website where you’re told to enter your
account information is also fake. In some instances, really slick spoofers direct
you to the genuine website, then pop up a window over the site that captures your
personal information. The information entered does not go to the legitimate site,
but rather to the spoofer’s account. The information you entered will most likely
be sold to criminals, who’ll use it to ruin your credit and drain your account.

In phishing and vishing attacks, individuals report receiving e-mails or text messages
indicating a problem with their account. They are directed to follow the link provided
in the message to update their account or correct the problem. The link actually
directs the individuals to a fraudulent website that looks legitimate where their
personal information, such as account number and PIN, is compromised.

Other reported scams have included victims receiving an e-mail message asking them
to complete an online survey. At the end of the survey, they are asked for their
personal account information to allow funds to be credited to the account in appreciation
for completing the survey. Providing this information will allow criminals to compromise
the account.

Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:

  • Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
  • Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
  • Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
  • Avoid filling out forms in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
  • Always compare the link in the e-mail to the link that you are actually directed to.
  • Log on to the official website, instead of “linking” to it from an unsolicited e-mail.
  • Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify if the e-mail is genuine.

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