Is it the economy? The holidays? Who knows? Whatever the cause, there is a flurry of Internet hazards out there right now. Here are a few to watch out for:
The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning about fake electronics stores that look legit and claim to accept credit cards. But when you go to pay, they say that due to fraud they are only accepting wire transfers. The fraud here is being perpetrated on you since you likely won’t get any goods for that cash transaction and you won’t be able to get your money back either. Never, never, never wire money to anyone you don’t know personally. Even if your daughter emails from college begging for money, talk to her before you do it. Maybe someone stole her laptop?
The FBI has also issued a warning about a flurry of spam that appears to originate with FBI executives. These are phishing scams, mostly. They insist — often with threats of penalties, including prosecution, if you don’t comply â€“ that you follow a link in the email and provide some form of personal information â€“ name, address, bank account numbers, or social security numbers. These emails do not originate with the FBI. In fact, according the FBI warning about them, “The FBI does not send unsolicited e-mails of this nature. FBI Executives are briefed on numerous investigations but do not personally contact consumers regarding such matters. In addition, the IC3 [Internet Crime Complaint Center] does not send threatening letters to consumers demanding payments for Internet crimes.” If you follow the links, you will find yourself at a dummy site giving your personal information to some scam artist. Don’t do that.
I have also gotten several emails that claim to be from the IRS with tax files attached. These are probably viruses, though I did not open them to find out. Don’t ever open attachments from questionable sources. There are some dangerous viruses out there and this is one of the many ways they ride in to your computer. The IRS states plainly on its site, “The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail. Also, please remember that all IRS.gov Web page addresses begin with http://www.irs.gov/.” Be sure you are running virus protection on your computer and that it is scanning your email in case you fall for one of these. But even if you are sure you are running virus protection, be careful about opening this sort of email. You can’t be too careful.