ONLINE PITFALLS: Kerr Solutions has had a larger than normal number of customers complaining about internet or email scams.
ONLINE PITFALLS: Kerr Solutions has had a larger than normal number of customers complaining about internet or email scams. Contributed

Be switched on to scammers

IT SEEMS more people are getting switched on to the phone scams from callers claiming to be from Telstra or BigPond.

Normally these callers are from overseas, they have a heavy accent and there is normally a lot of call centre noise in the background. They also immediately suggest that your computer has a problem and you need to fix it immediately. I love to hear that our customers have just hung up on these criminals.

However, this week we have had a larger than normal number of both new and existing customers coming in because of internet and email scams. The foreign voice can be an easy giveaway but a cleverly written email can have copies of official logos and can be worded very carefully. It is not that hard to construct one of these emails to trick a percentage of the population.

Using the pretence of a missed parcel delivery, a speeding fine, a tax refund, a banking update or an internet-related bill, a cleverly written email can appear very authentic. These emails can also appear in your inbox saying that they are actually from an authentic entity. I can send an email in two seconds saying that it is from Bruce Kerr or the Department of Transport or Daffy Duck - this is easy to do.

What is harder is to disguise where a link in the email is taking you to. This is where you can use some common sense to distinguish between legitimate and non-legitimate emails. If you hover your mouse over such a link (before you click on it) it will show the actual forwarding email address or web address and it will not appear at all legitimate.

Again, no bank or authority will ring you to ask you to verify who you are, just the same as these same entities will not email you with requests to re-enter your passwords and your own private details as part of any system upgrade.

Another email trap is the letter appealing to your softer side to donate to someone's niece who is a victim of some rare bone disease as well as school bullying and child abuse who will likely not survive the week without your financial support. This girl does not exist and even if she did, your money will not reach her.

The same can be said about the chain emails that ask you to forward them on to at least 10 other people within the next 10 minutes. They purport that if you don't comply then you are inviting the wrath of God, aliens and bad luck into your rapidly shortening life.

There is no Big Brother here and your computer keystrokes are not under any kind of surveillance. In all cases above your deleted items folder is diligently waiting to do its job as it was originally intended for such junk.

The other common pitfall this week has been several people clicking on pop-up adverts on web pages. In particular "You are the lucky one millionth visitor” or "You have been specially selected to receive a free iPad just by clicking here”. This is not a poker machine and the previous 999,999 unlucky visitors have not been unintentionally funding your visit.

Most of these adverts will bring in malware and persistent browser hijacks, which will simply lead to more adverts, more pop-ups and more computer problems. Using the old adage of "if it appears to good to be true” is especially true of these adverts.

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