Scam alert! Attorney General’s Office says, don’t get ‘spoofed’

March 7, 2013 at 4:15 pm | In Safety, West Seattle news, West Seattle online | 5 Comments

There’s a scam born every minute. Every second, probably. Our coverage of the West Seattle Block Watch Captains’ Network meeting last week mentioned some, in relation to mail fraud. Now, the state Attorney General’s Office has just issued this warning about the latest trend in e-mail “spoofing” – read on:

It can happen to anyone. Spoofers have targeted two well-respected consumer protection agencies in an attempt to harm the very people those agencies protect.

In mid-January, the Federal Trade Commission warned people that scammers had sent e-mail messages that appeared to be from the FTC to thousands of businesses claiming that people had complained about them. The email included a link or attachment to a document including more information. The goal? Entice frazzled business owners to click on the link or attachment then dump malware on their computer.

Today, the Attorney General’s Office learned people are receiving e-mails that appear to be from the AGO Webmaster or other “@atg.wa.gov” e-mail addresses with the following subject lines:

• New Pick Coming! But First I need your help, details inside

• Pick Of The Week

• This Stock is another monster week ahead

• DON’T MISS TODAY’S TRADING IDEA

• Your Mind Blowing Monster Pick!

• News Out & Must Read Inside.

Let us assure you. These are spoofs. Scammers know how to make a message appear to be from one e-mail when it’s really from someone completely different.

The goals are usually the same: Use a person, agency or business’ good name to trick people into parting with their personal information or lure them into clicking on a document or link that will infect their computer with viruses or malware. This is also known as “phishing.”

Here are some clues you’ve received a spoof e-mail:

• It asks you to provide log-in information like your user name or password.

• It contains an attachment or includes a claim a virus is found.

• It appears to be a reply from someone you’ve never contacted.

• It includes an error message from a system administrator that includes an attachment for you to view or a URL to click.

• The message includes a lot of obvious spelling or grammatical errors.

Sometimes these messages look very professional. Scammers work hard to replicate messages from legitimate sources like government agencies or banks. They’ll include a link with text that says, for example, Attorney General’s Office but the hyperlink itself goes somewhere else. You can check whether a link is for real by hovering over the text and reading the link that pops up—but be careful not to click on the link while hovering or you could end up on the scammers site!

OnGuardOnline.gov, the federal government’s Internet safety Web site, offers the following tips:

• Use trusted security software and schedule regular, automatic updates.

• Never e-mail personal or financial information.

• Only provide personal or financial information through an organization’s Web site if you typed in the address yourself and you know the site is secure, including a web address that starts with “https” –rather than just “http.”

• Review credit card and bank statements as soon as you receive them— and if you notice you’re not receiving your statements as expected, check with your bank or card company right away.

Finally, be very careful about opening attachments or downloading files from e-mails—no matter who sent them. No one is safe from spoofers!

5 Comments

  1. Beware, last night my sister received a phone call saying that it was the firefighters trying to raise money for squatters that had been burned out of houses that they had been squatting in. She declined but I would be surprised if the firefighters were actually doing a fundraising drive for this purpose.

    Comment by Connie — 5:50 pm March 7, 2013 #

  2. I have been called 3 times in the last 2 days by a 235 area code number where the heavily accented person said he was from random tech support company and they had received an error from my computer that it would no longer accept Microsoft software updates and he was going to fix it. At which point he attempted to get me to go to my computer, I presume to download something or log into a site. I don’t know for sure because I hung up on him before that happened. Not to mention I don’t use MS software.

    Comment by Belvidere — 7:01 pm March 7, 2013 #

  3. Belvidere – that’s a well-known scam. Glad you didn’t fall for it.

    Comment by WSB — 7:10 pm March 7, 2013 #

  4. This scam is decades old. It is called “pump and dump”.

    The scammer buys or gets a cheap option on a few million shares of some some lame stock that isn’t worth even a penny a share (quite frequently these scams can originate with the company itself which is usually some guy with a cheap rented office and no real product, sales, profits or potential) and then attempts to get people to buy the stuff with bombardments of “hot stock tips”. if they bite, the price of the stock is pumped up, the scammer unloads his pile of shares which usually pushes the price into the “dump” side and those who bought the “hot” stock get left standing when the music stops.

    This predates the Internet but as someone once said “There’s a new sucker born every minute.”

    There’s been two really heavy loads of them dumped in the past two weeks for two worthless stocks that I am aware of and I used to track this stuff for a living (I’m retired but keep my hand in.)

    Investors are getting smarter as these rarely work now. The one being currently pushed hard is actually down 15% since the start of the run.

    Anyone who thinks he is getting hot stock tips from a .gov address deserves what happens next anyway. :0

    You can forward the stock scam spam to enforcement@sec.gov as this stuff is almost always a major violation of securities trading law.

    The “tech support” scam is nasty. They either get your credit card info or access to your PC *and* your credit card info and you get it coming and going without even having dinner bought for you first.

    Comment by Jim P. — 8:11 pm March 7, 2013 #

  5. One of those “tech support” scammers called Ars Technica (a respected tech website/magazine) much hilarity ensued!
    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/10/i-am-calling-you-from-windows-a-tech-support-scammer-dials-ars-technica/

    Comment by trickycoolj — 10:22 pm March 7, 2013 #

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