Keep on the lookout for an email scam that pretends to be a “community safety” alert. The email looks like a warning for parents about a child predator in the area, but it’s really just a scam.
Here’s how it works: You receive an email with the subject line “Alert: There is a child-predator living near you!” The email claims to be a notification that “a registered child offender has just moved into your area,” and this information is based on your “local area ZIP code.” But you don’t remember signing up for such a service.
The email provides a link and instructs you to click and learn more about this predator alert. If you click, you are redirected through several sites to land on the website for “Kids Live Safe,” a service that sells localized reports on sex offenders.
But this spam isn’t actually affiliated with Kids Live Safe. Sending users to that website appears to be a way to lend credibility and distract from the actual scam. Clicking on the other link (the scam link) is enough to infect your machine with malware, even if you ultimately end up at a legitimate site. Once it’s on your machine, the malware will attempt to search for stored information such as usernames, passwords and credit card numbers.
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How to spot a scam email:
In general, it’s best not to click on links that come in unsolicited emails. It is better to go to your browser and search for the real organization if you want more information.
Check out the “from” field: Scammers have the ability to mask email addresses, making the message appear to come from a legitimate source. But they don’t always use it. Look out for email addresses that don’t match the brand used in the email message.
Watch for typos, strange phrasing and bad grammar. Scammers can easily copy a brand’s logo and email format, but awkward wording and poor grammar are typically a giveaway that the message is a scam. In the example above, consider the awkward phrase “local area ZIP code.”
Hover over URLs to reveal their true destination. Typically, the hyperlinked text will say one thing, but the link will point somewhere else. Scammers either set up fake websites or hack into third-party sites and use them to host malware.
The email claims to have information about you, but you never signed up for it. Scams often pretend to be personalized for you, but they are actually blast emails. Don’t fall for this! If you never signed up for custom email alerts, you shouldn’t be receiving them.
Bottom line, always be cautious about clicking on links or opening attachments from people or agencies in which you have not requested information. While some organizations may be familiar to you, don’t automatically assume the email that you receive is actually from that organization.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA Inc., serving 41 counties in Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River area. This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at 478-742-7999, www.bbb.org or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.