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Aug 152012
 August 15, 2012  Posted by  Hot Deals, Money
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The email arrives with your name, even your phone number, from somebody who claims to know you, suggesting you click the link in the email.  Or, it’s on your Facebook wall or Pinterest page, suggesting you click the link.

Two words of advice: Don’t click, except to delete permanently.

As more personal information becomes available to those with the time or the tools to search it out, our inboxes and social media pages are becoming fertile hunting grounds for bad guys. Here are some of newest online scams and how to avoid them:

Illegal computer use

The FBI has been swamped recently with complaints about what’s being called “ransomware.” It works this way — you get a bogus email supposedly from the FBI saying your Internet address was identified by the FBI or Dept. of Justice Computer Crime section as having been associated with illegal online activity, and your computer access is being locked.

In order to unlock it, you are directed to pay a $200 fine to avoid criminal charges.  If you click, your computer will be infected with malware. Don’t click.

This is the newest Internet scheme the FBI is reporting, now that the danger of the DNS Changer malware I wrote about recently has passed.

Fraud alert

Don’t click on an email from your bank or credit card issuer, which needs to “investigate” a recent transaction for fraud and asks you to verify your account information.

According to Scam Watch, some scammers try to lower your guard by including your credit card number, and asking you to verify your identity by responding with the three-digit or four-digit security code on the card. Don’t click. 

The sender is most likely sending you to a secondary site to harvest your numbers and raid your account.  Instead, contact the bank or credit card website or phone number on your monthly statement or bill.

Shortened URLs

We’ve all seen, even used,, and tinyurl to shorten long links on social media sites. Unfortunately, the shortened URLS could be directing you to a malicious website, according to data-protection firm Sophos. Be sure you trust the original source before clicking a shortened URL.

Help, my wallet was stolen

You get an email from a “friend” who says his wallet was stolen, and he needs you to wire money to the website included in the email.  Don’t click.  Contact your friend offline or via another email address to ensure that his or her address book wasn’t hijacked by a scammer.

Help get me out of jail and don’t tell mom

Another version of the stolen wallet scam is from a sender claiming to be a college-age grandchild, niece or nephew, who was arrested on a phony charge and needs money to get out of jail and come home.  Again, don’t click.  The Elder Abuse unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in NYC says the “grandchild” scam is targeting seniors, who often are more trusting and less tech savvy than others.

Phony friend

Recently, I got an email from a man and his wife who claimed to know me.  The email included my address and phone number as “proof” of our acquaintance.  He invited me to check out his link with photos of our recent “meeting.” Since I did not recognize either name, I purged the email immediately from my computer.  But I do want to thank him for giving me the idea to write this article.


Evelyn Kanter

Evelyn Kanter is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting on good deals and warning about bad ones, for longer than she cares to admit publicly. A native and lifelong New Yorker, she was the first consumer reporter for CBS News and for WABC TV “Eyewitness News” and helped launch the “Sales and Bargains” column in New York Magazine. Evelyn is the author or editor of more than a dozen travel guidebooks and apps, including Peaceful Places New York City, and owns and operates NYC On The Cheap and EcoXplorer. A long-time tree-hugger, Evelyn also writes about green travel, green cars and saving the green in your wallet for national and regional publications, including a column syndicated by Motor Matters and for, AAA magazines and airline inflights.

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