Beware of technical “experts” bombarding you with bug reports

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We’re all appalled at scammers who take advantage of people’s fears to sell them products they don’t need, or worse still products that don’t exist and never arrive.

Worst of all, perhaps, are the scammers who offer products and services that do exactly the opposite of what they claim – making their victims pay up simply to make them even easier to defraud in future.

Well-known cyberexamples of this sort of fraud include:

  • Fake technical support incidents. These are the web popups or the phone calls you get out of the blue that report ‘viruses’ on your computer, and persuade you to ‘hire’ the services of an online ‘expert’ to remove them. Often these victims are lonely, vulnerable, and particularly ill-placed to deal with the financial loss. The scammers then target those individuals repeatedly and, in some cases we have heard, with ever-increasing aggression.
  • Fake home delivery scams. These are typically emails or SMSes (text messages) that say a delivery has been delayed. Thanks to coronavirus restrictions, many more people are relying on home deliveries than a year ago, so it feels pretty harmless to click the link you’ve been given. However, you end up on a fake web site that goes after your password or credit card details.
  • Fake purchase notifications. Apple is one of the most targeted brands here, along with other household names such as Amazon and Netflix. Given that the amount of the transaction is often quite modest, it feels harmless enough simply to contest it online, using the handy but fraudulent phishing link included.
  • Fake fraud warning calls. Vishing, or phishing via voice, is a variant on the previous fake purchase scams, where a synthetic voice recites an item that you didn’t buy, and then offers you a chance to ‘press 1 to contest this purchase’. You end speaking to a call centre where scammers with the gift of the gab talk you into handing over credit card data to ‘fix’ a mistake that never happened.
  • Fake overdue account warnings. Like fake delivery notices, these are commonly received via SMS so that the crooks only need to come up with a brief note in abbreviated English. The accounts involved are often ones you expect to pay automatically, such as monthly phone and utiliy bills, and the scammers aim to lure you to a fake website to defraud you.