North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice

North Carolina Department of Justice
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Say No Thanks to Spam

9/14/2007

By Attorney General Roy Cooper
 
Spam, or unsolicited junk email, has become more than just annoying advertisements that clog your inbox. Many spammers are highly sophisticated and out to not just rob you of your time but also your money and your good name. 
 
Below are three popular spam scams that can put you at risk.
 
Phishing scams
Phishing involves e-mails or pop-up messages that claim to be from places like your bank, utility company, Internet service provider or even a government agency. The message often asks you to “update,” “validate,” or “confirm” your account information or something bad will happen like your account will be shut down or your power cut off. The messages then direct you to a website that looks just like the legitimate organization's site. But it's a bogus site that exists simply to trick you into providing your personal information so the criminals can steal it, fake your identity, and run up bills or commit crimes in your name.
 
Nigerian letter scams
These advance fee scams, usually called Nigerian letter scams after the country in Africa where they originated, have been around for years. The pitches change from time to time to include current events, but most all of them are awkwardly worded emails sent from overseas by someone who pleads for your help getting millions of dollars out of his or her country. All you have to do is provide your bank account number so the funds can be transferred. For your trouble, you’ll get a cut of the money. Once you give the scammers your bank account number, they quickly drain your account rather than filling it with their imaginary millions.
 
Electronic greeting card scams
This scam starts with an email that appears to be an electronic greeting card. Once you click on the link you may be prompted to download a program in order to read the card. Depending on the scam, the program could actually be a virus or other harmful program like adware or spyware. 
 
The goal of a virus is to wreak havoc on your computer and in many cases destroy your hard drive. Adware typically bombards your computer with pop-up ads and can even get into your address book and send spam and other emails out in your name. Spyware is a program that scans your computer for personal and financial information that can be used to steal your identity. In some cases, spyware can include key-logging software that records your keystrokes at a secure website, such as at your bank, and sends that information to thieves who can use the information to steal your money.
 
Avoid Scam Spam
Now that you know some scams to look out for, follow these tips to make sure you don’t fall victim to these scammers. 
  • If you get an email message from a name or email you don’t recognize, don’t open it. Delete it from your inbox.
  • Be cautious when opening attachments, clicking on links or downloading software. Only open attachments, downloads and links when you know the sender and when you are expecting the attachment, download or link from that sender.
  • Don’t answer any message that asks for your personal information such as your Social Security Number or bank account. Legitimate companies do not ask for personal information via email.
  • Don’t respond to spam emails. If you respond, you’re likely to get even more spam.
  • Set up a spam filter in your email to reduce the number of unwanted and potentially dangerous emails.
  • Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer and update it frequently. 
  
Attorney General Roy Cooper and his staff are on the look out for scams that seek to rob unsuspecting North Carolinians. We are here to be of service when you need us, but through consumer education efforts like these columns we hope to help consumers avoid problems from the start.