Cyber Security Part 2

Cyber Security Awareness Month – Part 2

The month of October has been proclaimed Cyber Security Awareness Month and according to the National Cyber Security Alliance we should remember three things: STOP, THINK, CONNECT!

In an effort to increase cyber awareness, this is the second part of our series and we are highlighting some of the common Internet scams consumers are facing today:

·         Phishing and Identity Theft: (emails and phony web pages) you are contacted by a “business” to verify personal information.  They frighten you into visiting a phony web page and entering your ID and password.

·         Advance-Fees paid for a guaranteed loan or credit card: If you are thinking about applying for a “pre-approved” loan or a credit card that charges an upfront fee, be aware advance fee loans are illegal.  Once the fee is paid, most consumers never receive the loan! Some red flags for advance fee loan scams:

o   The lender isn’t interested in your credit history.

o   Legitimate companies will confirm the information on your application before they will “guarantee” the loan.

o   Fees that are not disclosed clearly.

·         Lottery Scams: Information about international lotteries is continually being sent to consumers via e-mails and actual letters.  It will inform you that you won millions of dollars – BUT before you can collect your “winnings,” you must pay the “processing” fee.  This amount could range from several hundred dollars to several thousand.  If you pay the first “fee” you can bet they will contact you again and tell you about another “fee” you must pay before you will receive your winnings.  Ultimately, there is no “lottery” and they will be long gone with the money!

·         Internet Business Opportunity Scams:  Offers come to you via email or on Internet sites offering you the ability to work from your home and make thousands of dollars.  Some even tell consumers that they don’t actually need a computer to do this type of work.  Once you sign up with the initial Internet business and pay their fees, usually several thousand dollars, you will be contacted by “other” companies who are actually affiliated with the first one, offering you tutoring, website design, web hosting services, etc.  Before you know it, you have spent close to $20,000 and have nothing to show for it in return.

·         Employment Search – Work at Home: You have posted on your resume on a legitimate employment site.  You receive a job offer to become a “financial representative” of an overseas company you have not heard of before.  They want to hire you because the company is having problems accepting money from U.S. customers and they need you to handle the payments.  You will be paid 5 to 15 percent commission per transaction.  If you apply, you will provide the scammer with your personal data, such as bank account information, so you can “get paid.”

·         Over-payment scams: There are several variations to this scam, but one of the most common is the online auction scam.

o   You have posted an item on line at an auction site or with online classifieds.  You receive a series of emails from a potential buyer who confirms that they would like to purchase your item.  However, they end up sending you a check or money order for a substantial amount more than you are asking for your item.  Their instructions to you are: cash the check, keep the money for the price of the item you are selling, and then wire the rest of the money back to them, or to another address of the “transport” company you will use to deliver the time to them.  Although the check or money orders may look real, they are counterfeit and you will lose the amount you have wired to them.

·         Nigerian Scams: (419 scam) There are many variations on this scam, but ultimately, you receive an email from a member of a wealthy Nigerian family.  They need help in getting large sums of money out of the country and they would like your assistance.  They promise you a large cut of the money for your assistance.  All you are asked to do is cover the endless “legal” and other “fees” that must be paid to the people that can release the money.  The more you are willing to pay, the more they will try to steal from you.  There is no money and you will never recover the money you sent to them in good faith.

·         Online Dating Scams: (Romance Scam) With the many dating sites, chat rooms and social networking sites online today, scammers are tapping into these resources to find potential victims.  The scammers create fake profiles (often as someone in the military) to build online relationships.  They seek victims who appear to be vulnerable due to recent loss of their spouse, a divorce, or family issues, and eventually convince their victims to send them money.  In some cases, they claim to need the money for sick relatives, medical expenses, or to travel to the United States so they can “get married” to their love interest.  Once the money is wired to a foreign country, it is gone!

·         General Online Advertising:  While there are thousands of companies advertising online today, there are as many who are offering fake online ads.  The marketers are using videos and other marketing tools to make their ads appear as real as the legitimate ads.  Before deciding to do business with a company online, it is very important to do some checking on the company before any money changes hands.  Some of the questionable ads include:

o   Apartment or home rental

o   New diet promotions or products – teeth whiteners, wrinkle cream

o   Fake hotel reviews

o   Fake online stores

o   Puppy or pet sales

If you have encountered any of the cyber scams discussed during Cyber Security Awareness Month, you should report the fraud to the Internet Fraud Compliant Center (IFCC) at www.ic3.gov.  This agency has a simple form you can submit online.  The information shared here will assist with the education of the public about cybercrimes.

Because there are so many variations to all the scams listed in the cyber security articles, not all of them could be described in detail.  If you have a question about a cyber scam, please contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division investigates allegations of fraud in the marketplace.  Investigators also mediate individual complaints against businesses.  If you have a consumer problem or question, call the Consumer Protection Division at 328-3404, toll-free at 1-800-472-2600, or 1-800-366-6888 (w/TTY).  This article and other consumer information is located on our website at www.ag.nd.gov.


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not FDIC Insured.