Better Business Bureau: Fake IRS Website
Well, another week of alerts concerning online scams. It's amazing how things have changed in the past three decades as far as scams are concerned. Most schemers these days use the Internet as the means to deliver their poison.
According to the IRS, a sophisticated phishing scheme that uses an official-looking but fake Internal Revenue Service website has been netting victims; the scam uses a website that mimics the IRS' e-Services registration page to collect personal information. Note - the real official page provides products for tax preparers, not the general public. The phony web page looks almost identical to the real one. Criminals use these sites to lure people into providing personal and financial information that may be used to steal the victim's money or identity.
The official IRS website can be found at irs.gov, while fake sites often end in .com, .net or .org. Suspicious websites can be reported to the IRS by email at email@example.com. Use the subject line, "Suspicious website." If you run across one of these, please report it.
That 'cutie' could be conning you
Do you or someone you know dabble in online dating? It turns out that the crippling fear of an awkward first date is the least of your troubles. Beware of frauds that are sweeping online dating sites. The scams typically work like this: A con artist, usually based in an Internet cafe overseas, will lift a photo from Facebook or another social networking site. They will painstakingly craft a fake profile and begin targeting people who are looking for love. Once they've made contact, they will typically request to move the conversation to a private instant messaging service. He or she will begin the courtship process by sending letters and love poems for a period of weeks and finally offer to fly to meet their victim. Within hours of the expected arrival time, an emergency will strike: A work visa has expired or their aunt/niece/child is sick and they need a few thousand dollars to be wired over so they can finally meet their intended. It's a quick way to lose your money and leave you with a broken heart.
That's not your bank's chat box
According to a recent report by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, financial institutions and their customers should be aware there is a new online attack being launched by hackers. The scheme works by installing dormant malware on a user's computer, which is usually downloaded via fake web links in emails and attachments. When the user launches a legitimate financial institution-related website, a "fake chat box" suddenly appears (via the malware) and tricks the user into thinking it's a reputable representative of the institution, when in fact it's the fraudster. The criminal then goes into live chat and elicits the user's personal account information under the auspices of confirming identity and validating the computer device. To avoid becoming a victim, update your security computer software and remember your financial institution would never ask you for personal information online.
In closing, I have really enjoyed warning our readers about scams and offering consumer tips. Hopefully, this has been of benefit to you and our community. If you have a subject or wish to have me address a consumer issue in this column please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by e-mail at email@example.com.