5 Things (Spam Emails) to Ignore This Year!

Spam Defined

Learn to Identify and Delete Spam Email
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Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Another year is in the books and a new one has begun. Yeah, I know, it’s hard to believe but here we go! With a new year comes a new To-Do list for wrapping up last year, while checking off the items for kicking off the new year in fine fashion. But rather than add to your list, here are five examples of emails you can ignore all year long!

1. From: Facebook (Security) Team
Subject: You have received a new comment

Don’t fret if you receive an email stating you have deactivated or closed your Facebook account when you know you haven’t. Some indications that these emails are fakes include:

  • The message is sent to an email other than the one you used to create your Facebook account.
  • The message lacks a personal greeting. Instead of addressing you by your name, as listed in your Facebook account, it uses your email address to greet you (i.e., Hi johnny@workemail.com).
  • The email address displayed next to the From name gives it away (i.e., Facebook Security Team [arbitrary@name.com]. NOTE: Even if it does say it’s from @facebook.com, that doesn’t guarantee it’s legit. But if it doesn’t, that’s a dead giveaway that’s it’s fake!).
  • The email includes a call to action like clicking a link within the body of the message (e.g., If this wasn’t you follow the link below: http://www.fakeurl.com).

2. Your Direct Deposit Payments Were Rejected
Do yourself a favor and save a lot of time and energy by ignoring any email you receive that starts out with pathetic writing like,

Please be notified, that your latest Direct Deposit via ACH payment (Int. No. 6478944817996) was rejected, due to your current Direct Deposit software being out of date.

If that’s not enough to cause you to hit the delete button, then do it when the email asks you to,

Please visit the secure section of our website to see the details.

If you still don’t delete it at that point, whatever you do, DO NOT click on the Details link provided in the body of the email. If you’ve read that far in the email, hopefully it’s only because you actually were expecting to receive a direct deposit. Or, as is more frequently the case for most of us, you had scheduled an electronic payment to go out.

3. The Electronic Greeting or E-Card
For the most part, you can ignore the email you receive from the well-meaning friend that warns you of the impending arrival of the worst computer virus ever. These types of emails are recycled and rehashed every year, and quite frankly, are all but worn out! It’s like the gift that keeps on giving. Regifters at the holidays rewrap presents they’ve received in the past and give them to others. Spammers rewrap their emails and send them along with love, like a holiday fruitcake or familiar white elephant gift at the annual holiday party. The message usually keeps with tradition by including a warning from someone’s relative, who supposedly knows a thing or two about these computer things. One version of the message refers to someone’s brother, who is a

very advanced programmer


does computer work for a living


has a high up status with Microsoft.

This so-called authority warns of a virus that is coming. The message often insists someone has checked with (insert name of preferred antivirus software company) and they have verified that their company is

gearing up for this virus.

The message goes on to say they’ve checked Snopes.com who says it is real. If you receive an email like this, DO proceed cautiously before clicking on or opening an electronic greeting card or other attached file. But do everyone in your contacts list a favor and DON’T

send the message around to all of your contacts ASAP

as the email instructs you to do. DON’T do it even if the email warns that the file will…

burn the whole hard disc C of your computer

or if it claims that…

this is the worst virus announced by CNN.

4. Contests and Giveaways
Don’t forget the adage, If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That’s even truer online. When you see a promise that the first (insert number) people to Like or Share a post or a page on Facebook will receive a gift card worth (insert dollar value), don’t waste the effort of lifting your index finger to click or tap. Whether it’s a gift card for a popular electronics store or a prepaid Visa debit card, chances are you’ll be redirected to another website, where you’ll be asked to enter personal information — something you never want to do if you’re interested in protecting your identity. The chances are slim you’ll ever receive a gift card. If you’re still tempted, go directly to the company’s Facebook page or website to verify whether the offers are legitimate.

5. Fake Charities and Fundraisers
Whenever there’s a natural disaster or catastrophe, charities spring into action to help those affected. Unfortunately, the online crooks and scammers mobilize too, preying on people’s compassion and generosity. Beware of requests for donations via text messages, emails, or websites. The con artists are good at tugging at your heartstrings and taking your money, but your money never makes it to your intended party. Verify the validity of any professed charity or fundraiser on your own. Initiate your own search online to find organizations and their websites. Donate directly to a charity like the American Red Cross or United Way by visiting their website. When in doubt, use reputable resources like The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, The Federal Trade Commission, and Charity Navigator.

Knowing the signs of scam and spam emails can help you to quickly identify ’em, ignore ’em, and better yet, delete ’em.

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Those We Trust the Most! Beware of BBB Scams.

Fake BBB Email

Just Because it Says “BBB” Doesn’t Mean It’s The Better Business Bureau…
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Not all crooks are dummies. In fact, many are very smart. How many times have you heard the sentiment, “If only they’d use their skills for legitimate purposes…”? These clever con men know the businesses and brands that we trust and they take advantage of that trust by using an iconic symbol, like the Better Business Bureau (BBB), to lull us into a false sense of security when we see their logo, all in an attempt to separate us from our money.

If you own or work for a small business, be careful not to automatically take email messages you receive from the BBB at face value. There are a handful of hoaxes that seem to resurface every year using the BBB’s good name and mark to trick us. These email scams all start similarly with fraudulent email messages posing as the BBB. The fake emails are often signed with the address of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, which is the national office of the BBB system. The email messages are very convincing looking, often using what appears to be standard BBB formatting, including details like a user ID, reference number, and password, which are similar to the authentic complaint case notices from the real BBB. The messages are usually well written with good grammar and no spelling errors. Here are three angles the spammers have taken:

FOLLOW-UP ON COMPLAINT FILED WITH BBB — An email with the subject line “Complaint from your customers” may be a scam. Just like the real ones, the fake emails inform you that a customer has filed a complaint about a negative experience they’ve had with your company. The messages often include language, such as:

We encourage you to use our ONLINE COMPLAINT system to respond to this complaint.

The following URL (website address) below will take you directly to this complaint and you will be able to enter your response directly on our website:

Often the email refers the recipient to a zip file attachment, which supposedly contains a copy of the complaint.

Do Not Open the Attachment or Click On the Link!

When you receive this type of notice, your first instinct might be to jump right in and resolve the complaint by opening the attachment or clicking on the link provided in order to view the details, just as they suggest. Don’t click it, it may link to a non-BBB website. Instead, hover your mouse over the website address or URL (the part that begins with http://). That may reveal the actual address, which may not be BBB at all. Then again, it may not, so still tread lightly even if it appears to be a BBB website address. The link might actually take you to a rogue website that downloads malicious software onto your computer in the form of a virus, like a trojan, or other malware such as a botnet, all of which are ultimately designed to steal banking information and passwords.

REQUEST FOR UPDATED CONTACT INFORMATION “AS A SERVICE TO BBB ACCREDITED BUSINESSES” – Another tact the fake emails take is to appeal to your sense of system integrity, as in the following:

As a service to BBB Accredited Businesses, we try to ensure that the information we provide to potential customers is as accurate as possible. In order for us to provide the correct information to the public, we ask that you review the information that we have on file for your company.

We encourage you to use our ONLINE FORM to provide us with this updated information. The URL below will take you directly to this form on our website:

…Please look carefully at your telephone and fax numbers on this sheet, and let us know any and all numbers used for your business (including 800, 900, rollover, and remote call forwarding). Our automated system is driven by telephone/fax numbers, so having accurate information is critical for consumers to find information about your business easily…

CONFIRMING CLOSURE OF A COMPLAINT FILED WITH BBB – Another way to get businesses to open malicious attachments or fake links is to draw your attention to a “resolved” complaint that you knew nothing about until now. Again, the email message is “phishing” to get you to open a file or click on a link in pursuit of answers to this supposed complaint, as follows:

Dear Company:
As you are aware, the Better Business Bureau contacted you regarding the above-named complainant, seeking a response to this complaint. Your position is available online.

The following URL (website address) below will take you directly to this complaint and you will be able to view the response directly on our website:

…The complainant has been notified of your response.
The BBB believes that your response adequately addresses the disputed issues and/or has exhibited a good faith effort to resolve the complaint. The complaint will close as “Administratively Judged Resolved” and our records will be updated.

If you fail to honor your agreement or if the consumer has information that disputes the accuracy of your firm’s response, we will notify your office with substantiation to support the consumer’s position and the case will be re-opened. Cases will not be re-opened without documentation or good cause…

BBB Spammer/Phisher/Hacker

Until Proven Otherwise… Assume This Guy Sent You That Email — Not the BBB
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What To Do If You Receive an Email…

Though you might, at first, be concerned that your business has a disappointed customer, make sure the “complaint” passes the sniff test first. In other words, if you don’t have any clients or customers who pay for your company’s products or services in advance, then it’s unlikely they need to involve the BBB to remedy things.

Question the timing and supposed affiliations referenced in the email. If your business is a CPA firm and the email ties your company to the American Institute of CPAs during tax season, don’t assume it stands to reason so it must be legitimate.

  • DO NOT open any attachments or click on any links to a website.
  • If you are not certain whether the complaint is legitimate, contact your local BBB (www.bbb.org/find).
  • Read emails carefully with a critical eye and look for clues of fakes, such as misspellings, poor grammar, generic or non-specific greetings.
  • Don’t be tricked into reacting too quickly by urgent instructions such as, “Click on the link or your account will be closed.”
  • Delete the email from your computer completely by emptying your “Deleted Items”, “Trash”, or “Recycle Bin”.
  • Forward the email to phishing@council.bbb.org or alert them at https://www.bbb.org/scam/report-a-scam/ so the BBB’s security team can track the fraudsters. The BBB Council warns businesses and consumers that the return email address, riskmanager@bbb.org, is not valid for the BBB.
  • Keep your antivirus software up-to-date at all times by running updates frequently, or better yet, have them set to update automatically. If you’ve already clicked on a link in the e-mail, run a full virus scan of your computer. Using an antivirus, spam filtering, and firewall software helps protect your business against the risks of malware attacks, such as botnets and trojans.

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Email Scam: My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Trip…

Email Scam: My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Trip…

It happened again this week! It seems that at least a couple of times each year, I can count on receiving an email from a friend, relative, or acquaintance, who is in distress and desperately needs my immediate financial help to make it home from a vacation-gone-wrong in some foreign land. Inevitably, it has a familiar theme, and sometimes it is verbatim what other emails I’ve received stated; other emails from other friends, who were also stranded in a land far, far away.

But we all know these emails aren’t really true and they aren’t really coming from who they say they are. However, the email message really does come from your friend’s actual email account BUT it doesn’t actually come from your friend, your unsuspecting friend. Their email account has been hacked and now some cyber scam artist is trying to dupe you, and many more good-hearted, albeit gullible, friends or relatives, into sending them money. And they almost always want the money wired.

These types of email scams have been circulating for years. The reason they live on seems due to the fact that there’s a new sucker born every minute. Meaning, they work! And as long as people keep falling for it, the scammers will prey.

Here’s the content of the message I received this week:

Subject: My Terrible Trip………..(insert name of sender)

I really hope you get this fast, my family and I came down here to Madrid, Spain for a short vacation and we were mugged at gun point last night at the park of the hotel where we lodged, all cash and credit card were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us…

We’ve been to the Embassy and the Police here, but they’re not helping issues at all they asked us to wait for 3 weeks but we can’t wait till then and our flight leaves in few hours from now but we’re having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won’t let us leave until we settle the hotel bills, we are freaked out at the moment. Well I really need your financially assistance. Please let me know if you can help us out, write me back so I can tell you how to get it to me.

The story always ends the same. Please send money! Though your first inclination might be to help, at least do a little checking around first. And if you still have the urge to help…STOP IT!

Try performing a few simple fact-finding steps:

  • Look for clues in the body of the message. If something doesn’t sound like them, it’s because it’s not them!
  • Question whether your relationship with this person is one where they’d contact you in a crisis, not to mention ask you for money.
  • If you’re at all familiar with their writing style or ability, look for disconnects between what you know and what you’re reading. General poor writing and grammar skills might be enough to tip you off. Also, scrutinize the writer’s choice of vocabulary words. Do you know your friend to use the phrase, “freaked out?”
  • Call your friend’s home and cell phone numbers to at least try to confirm their whereabouts. Many times that will be the end of it. They’ve been home all along and have no idea what you’re talking about.
  • Check their last Facebook or other social media status to see if there was any indication of them traveling abroad. Also, check time frames between their activities to see if it’s even possible for them to be where the email purports them to be.
  • If the writer claims to be at a particular hotel or other public establishment, locate the phone number on your own and attempt to call it and ask to be connected to your friend.

My first clue that this was a hoax was that I barely know this dude sending me the email. In fact, I was surprised he even had my email address in the first place. A big second clue was the subject line, which reminded me of the classic children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst & Ray Cruz. Who does that? No matter how intriguing and entertaining the title of the email and subsequent story might be, I wasn’t about to take the bait. Don’t you either!

For another example of a common email scam, check out, “Facebook scam: Friend stuck in England needs money

Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/yannickgar/5573449717

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Are Popup Ads Dangerous?

Are Popup Ads Dangerous?

Excuse me, but your pop-up is on my screen.

Ah, yes… the ubiquitous pop-up ad. Annoying? Yes. Misunderstood? Possibly. Dangerous? Well, that remains to be seen. But what exactly is a pop-up ad? Is it anything at all that “pops” up on your screen a pop-up ad? Wikipedia says:

Pop-up ads (or pop-ups are a form of online advertising on the World Wide Web intended to attract web traffic or capture email addresses.

If we go by Wikipedia’s definition (and for the purposes of this blog post, we are), then we can break it down to say that anything that opens up a “form of online advertising on the World Wide Web” is a pop-up ad. Notice the emphasis on “online” — in this blog post we’re not including pop-ups that are generated from software. (Usually in the form of a Windows dialog box) That’s a good topic for another post at another time.

What’s dangerous and what’s annoying?

In reality, a true online ad is no more dangerous than a TV ad. Sure, it may be an annoyance, but you’re not going to get anything you don’t ask for unless you click on the ad. The trouble is that a malicious pop-up can be confused with a legitimate pop-up ad. That’s the rub. Whether those pop-ups come from software, a website, or from a magical dimension (ha-ha-ha), bad stuff is bad stuff, and that bad stuff is often masked to look like a legitimate pop-up. Why? Because the folks who are trying to get their badness out there are preying on our trust. Make the pop-up look like it came from a trusted source and more people will click.

Because of that, you and I have to be careful when surfing the Web and we’re confronted with a pop-up. Even if it’s something we’re interested in, we run the risk of being redirected somewhere we didn’t think we’d be sent to. And even if we’re not interested, sometimes even closing the pop-up can be a challenge. How many times have you tried to close a browser window with a pop-up ad only to be confronted with another pop-up? Even worse are the pop-up confirmation boxes that ask us if we’re sure, and then confuse us by saying clicking one button will do this and the other will do that, and neither explanation seems clear as to what clicking on either will actually do. It’s enough to drive you crazy!

Closing the pop-up debate.

If you’re surfing the Internet and keeping to well known sites like Google, Bing, and other big-name blogs/sites/etc. then the likelihood of you getting propositioned by a malicious pop-up are small. But no matter if you stay on the big sites or walk the wild side, you can keep yourself safe by downloading and installing a pop-up blocker, antivirus and anti-spyware software that specifically looks to remove any malicious software you may accidentally get infected with. Doing so will help keep you safe, whether or not you’re being exposed to legitimate ads or dangerous pop-ups.

Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/courtneybolton/ / CC BY-ND 2.0

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.

Six Ways to Stay as Spam-Free as Possible.

Six Ways to Stay as Spam-Free as Possible.

Spam, much like the Monty Python skit which inspired the digital definition of spam, is in everything. It’s on your mobile phone, in your emails, and on websites all over the internet. It’s pretty much an impossibility to be completely spam-free, but you can get pretty close if you take a few precautions.

Here are 6 easy to use tips you can use to keep your email Inbox as spam-free as possible.

  1. Read sign up details:

    When you sign up for a product, service, newsletter, etc., most decent websites will give you a link to details about what the sign up entails (usually a privacy policy or the like). Take a few moments to read this information, because details on what they plan on doing with your information will more than likely be listed there. Some things to look out for include:

    • Do they sell or share your information with third parties?

    • How often do they send out emails?

    • Are the emails and/or other contact methods relevant to what you’re signing up for?

  2. Opt out:

    Read check boxes carefully during sign ups. Sometimes you have to check a box to opt out of a mailing list, or sometimes you have to uncheck it to opt out. There’s no standard, per se, and companies often do what makes the most sense to them. Read carefully to make sure you do what’s right for you.

  3. Keep it under wraps:

    If information is optional, don’t give it up. There may be a field for your mailing address, but if it’s not required for a sign up then why do it?

  4. Get to know them:

    Take some time to find out more about a website before giving them any information about yourself. Read their online privacy policies, check out their blog if they have one, and try to get a sense of who they are before you start typing in details about yourself.

  5. Step away from the computer:

    For really detailed information requested online such as home addresses, phone numbers, and any sensitive information, you should try to find a verified phone number for them (i.e. one found in the phone book) or a local office (if possible) to sign up instead of doing it online.

  6. Get a new address:

    No, we’re not telling you to move. 🙂 We’re suggesting getting an email address that you can use to sign up for newsletters, etc. that you won’t mind getting clogged up with spam instead of your real email address. This way you can keep your personal email address clear for the things that really matter like family and friends.

This list is by no means exhaustive. There are always new methods being created to find out your contact information, and you need to be vigilant about keeping your info under wraps. Be sure to read what you’re signing up and stay on top of what you’re agreeing to online.

Oh, and if you’ve never seen the Monty Python spam sketch, you can see it on YouTube. Enjoy.

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.