Online scam alert educate yourself

KUALA LUMPUR - Have you ever received an email telling you that you've won the British lottery even though you can't remember ever having bought a lottery ticket?

Or how about an email from Facebook or a local bank asking you to "update your particulars"? Or how about one from Microsoft or Google saying that if you fill out a survey, you'll be rewarded with a prize?

More recently, mobile phone users have been getting missed calls from unknown foreign numbers.

While the more Internet savvy will recognise these as scams, there are a surprising number of users out there who don't.

To be fair, the messages can fool almost anyone they have legitimate-looking logos and seem like perfectly valid requests, especially the ones that represent local banks.

Click on the link given in the email and you'll even be taken to a webpage that looks practically like the real banking site or Facebook page. In actual fact, the link has taken you to a "phishing" site meant to trick you into revealing your private information and steal your secret banking or credit card information.

Since the email messages usually do not contain malware, often times they are not caught by antivirus software yes, online email sites like Gmail have pretty good spam filters but they are not 100 per cent effective.

The best way to avoid such scams is to be educated enough to know that they are scams.

Here's a guide on scams that you should watch out for.

Scam: Get rich quick!

There are many examples of get rich quick scams which have moved into cyberspace.

The classic example is the Nigerian scam, which usually has some deposed royalty from a war-torn country whose ruler has just died, but not before depositing the money in a bank account which only you can withdraw from.

These scams promise a cut of an extremely large sum of money but in exchange for that you are required to deposit thousands of ringgit into an account to show "good faith".

Lately, this scam has taken a decidedly local flavour, with email messages in Bahasa Malaysia which promise big money if you help to make a "small investment".

Solution: If it's too good to be true, it usually is.

Nigerian Internet scams and other get rich quick scam email messages try to hook the user by promising money to you for some trivial service.

The rule of thumb is if it's too good to be true, it is. For example, any lottery which you've apparently won but have never entered is a scam.

Also, be cautious when filling out surveys in exchange for cash or prizes even if they are legitimate, most sites are located in the United States and the fine print will always say that unless you're in this country, you are not eligible to win.

Scam: Update your banking details

Another classic scam is one where the user receives an email from a bank asking for the user to update his/her information.

They always contain a link for the user to click on to "take them to the site" to update their personal details.

This is a classic phishing scam which baits the user (hence the term) by looking like a legitimate email from their bank.

In fact, the link provided in the message actually takes the user to a spoof site which looks just like the real banking site, but is actually a front for capturing the user's personal banking username and password.

Even if the link looks like an actual link to the bank's website, clicking on it will actually take you to a bogus site.

Solution: Never click on banking links in email messages or reveal your password

We'll say it again: You should never click on suspicious links from "banking", "Facebook", and other e-mail messages that ask you to update your account information.

These are always scams and should be ignored no bank will ever send you an email requesting you to update your information. Of course, also remember that your password should be unique for every bank or site that requires one.

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