Hackers and Scams and Spammers, Oh My!

A few months ago, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about the lame attempts email spammers had made to trick me into revealing personal information and/or downloading some virus-infected software program.  They haven’t improved much.

However, a friend of mine was recently hacked and had his email accounts compromised.  The hackers sent out an email to his address book that basically said, “I’m stranded overseas, please wire me a ton of money so I can get home.”  This is a common and known scam, but if you didn’t know any better, your first instinct might be to help a friend in need and wire him some money.  Obviously, your friend wouldn’t get the money, the scammers would.

This is someone who is very well-respected in the industry.  If it can happen to him, it can happen to any of us.  So what can you do?  The experts will tell you to avoid these common passwords, change your passwords often, have different passwords for different sites, use a mix of upper case and lower case as well as numbers and special characters, and the longer the password the better.  If you have an easy to remember password, why not tack-on just 2 more characters to strengthen it?

Scams are sometimes easy to spot but sometimes they’re very convincing.  Generally, if it’s too good to be true, it is.  Do yourself a favor and look at this visual post about a recent Starbucks scam on Pinterest.  Besides looking professional, the scammers programmed the site effectively enough to fool most.  It’s quite impressive.

It’s easy to forget that social media can be just as dangerous as websites when it comes to scams.  Perhaps, social media is even more dangerous because people tend to let their guard down when they’re interacting with friends, family & co-workers.  That should be repeated:  scams exist in social media and are perhaps easier to fall for than those you’d find on websites.

So before you inadvertently share false information (or worse, a scam) with someone you care about, do a little homework.  Here are 7 sites you can bookmark for future searches (plus there’s always Google):

  1. Urban Legends:  http://urbanlegends.about.com/
  2. Museum of Hoaxes:  http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/
  3. Snopes:  http://www.snopes.com/
  4. Hoax Slayer:  http://www.hoax-slayer.com/
  5. Facecrooks:  http://facecrooks.com/
  6. That’s Nonsense:  http://www.thatsnonsense.com
  7. Hoax Busters:  http://www.hoaxbusters.org/

So here’s your chance to make social media a better place for you and those you care about.  Bookmark the above sites.  Some even have social media accounts you can follow on Facebook and/or Twitter.  The next time you see something that’s suspicious and/or too good to be true, take 3-5 minutes to do a little research before you circulate it to your online network.