Todays consumers are targeted by scammers in a myriad of ways. The Internet has provided the unscrupulous with lots of stealthy techniques for separating consumers from their money and their identities.
To help you understand the language of the scammers world and avoid falling victim, the Better Business Bureau has put together this list of terms and definitions:
• Phishing is the act of sending an e-mail or a pop-up message that appears at first glance to be from a trustworthy business or government source. The goal is identity theft. The scammer is phishing for your sensitive information such as passwords, user names or credit card details.
Be aware that many of these fraudulent e-mails look convincingly legitimate. Some businesses that have their names used in such messages request that you forward any phishing e-mails that you receive on to them.
• Smishing is a text message sent to your cellphone that similarly wants to get your private information. The scammer senders can pose as banks, lottery sweepstakes or, more recently, department stores with gift cards that you have won.
The goals the same: the loss of your identity for their gain. So, technically, it is another form of phishing.
• Vishing is yet another form of phishing. In this technique the scammer uses the Internet to access your landline telephone (using something called Voice over IP), and you get a phone call notifying you of an urgent situation.
The situation may be that your electricity is about to be shut off or that someone has tried to access your bank account. You are instructed to call a number. When you call you are asked for sensitive information like your account number or your Social Security number. Again, it is an attempt to steal your identity.
• Cramming is the act of adding services to your phone bill that you did not ask for or charging you for calls you did not make. It may show up as small fees owed that are difficult to recognize. Read your monthly statements carefully, no matter how tedious this chore is.
Illegitimate charges related to telephone service should be reported to the FCC. Any other cramming charges should be reported to the FTC.
• Slamming refers to changes made to local, local toll or long distance phone service without the customers authorization. In some cases customers are tricked into changing their provider.
Small businesses are especially vulnerable to this scam. Reportedly callers to a business say they want to list them in a directory. They take some of their vital information over the phone, then splice the recording of the conversation so that it sounds as if the business has agreed to the change in service.
A new scam using the BBB name popped up this week. Two versions of the e-mail have been received. One claims to be following up on a complaint filed with BBB. The other is asking for updated contact information as a service to BBB Accredited Businesses.
Both are good fakes they use correct grammar and follow formats often used by BBB. Both refer the recipient to an online form, and the address appears to be that of a local BBB. If you hover your mouse over the Web address (the part that begins with http), you can see that the real address is not the BBB. Do not click on the link. It will take you to a rogue website that downloads a Trojan virus on your computer.