March 27, 2013
Sex, Drugs And Loads Of Lies – Why Spam Makes Every Day Like April Fools
While April Fool’s Day is still a week away, does it really matter in the digital age? Aren’t we bombarded with seemingly questionable information on a daily basis?
Perhaps you’ve heard that your credit rating has gone up, or even fallen, by 400 points. You might have heard from a relative, friend or colleague who is in dire trouble while traveling abroad and needs you to send them some money. Of course, they don’t have ID either, so you’ll have to send it care of that kindly fellow instead, but they’ll pay you back.
Let’s not forget about all those miracle cures for virtually everything, foods and pills that promise to help you lose weight, and, of course, those emails from the sexy sounding Russian lady who just wants to share photos with you.
These are just some examples of what has become so prevalent in our culture that we’re being told we shouldn’t believe anything (anything, we tell you) that you read on the Internet. So common is this sort of email that there are websites such as “Snopes” that can track rumor mill gossip, while a cottage industry has grown up with ways to block and filter spam.
The question is why, especially with all the effort to educate people, anyone bothers to send these phishing type of emails. Do those emails work?
Back in 2006, The New York Times noted that spam was prevalent because it works, and in the same year ZDnet noted that phishing (the more nefarious type of spam) is also common because it is so successful.
Seven years later, can this still be true? Aren’t consumers clever enough to know the real from the fake? In part, the scammers and cyber criminals have stepped up their game. They’ve created and crafted emails that utilize artwork that look like the real deal; they’ve included logos and links to websites that seem legitimate.
One very insidious form of scams involves fake FBI or other government warnings and hold computers hostage. This “scareware” or “ransomware” type of malware claims to have found illegal activity and/or content on a site and requires the user pay a “fine” to have the computer restored.
The truth is that these scams work for the same reason all scams work, it plays to the common traits in people. We simply want to believe, which is why next Monday there will be no shortage of fake emails, fake news stories and other “gotcha” moments. The sad part is that come Tuesday, April 2 the emails will continue to make the rounds, trying to convince people they are real.
These aren’t for the sake of saying “gotcha,” but rather going after real money.
The interesting part is that the credit scores and emails from friends are actually far less convincing looking than the spoof phishing emails from Amazon, eBay and PayPal. In other words, these emails that praise a credit score look so simple that they might be real; same with the email from a friend in dire need of money.
The latter is easy enough to discover the truth. Picking up the phone will determine if it is real and it is, in fact, hard to believe anyone rushes out to Western Union to actually send money. It is easy enough to ask a few personal questions and determine, even via email, that it isn’t fact your neighbor who is requesting the money.
The credit reports are more worrisome because these seem not to ask for anything, and that is what makes them dangerous. There is no asking for money, and these even include links to be removed from such spam. The problem is that merely accessing those sites could trigger the aforementioned malware or some other form of ransomware.
In other words, when it comes to email, every day has become April 1 and it is best to not trust anything at face value.
Image Credit: Photos.com