How to fight email scammers
Did you know that one of the first email-based frauds in the world, the "Nigerian Prince" scam, is also known as "419"? That number is, in fact, assigned to Nigeria's Criminal Code section which deals with fraud. The phenomena is so widespread that it made people create sites like this, which deal with these so-called "princes".
I am sure that you have received quite a few emails in which supposedly rich people wanted to send you tens of millions of dollars because they were on their deathbeds, and you seemed to be such a nice person. In fact, the scammer wants to convince you to pay a few hundreds or thousands of dollars as a commission for the $10 million wire transfer. As you can imagine, the moment you wire the "commission" money, the dying person gets well instantly, and then disappears for good. You've just been scammed!
Sadly, 419-like scams continue to trick people who tend to fall for get-rich-quick schemes even today! And now, a new generation of email scammers have come up with innovative methods that are cleverly engineered and may trick almost anyone.
Here are the top three threats, as well as the things that need to be done to stay safe.
1. Somebody sends you an email, telling you that you have cheated on your wife. The sender states that he has pictures to prove it, and that he will make them public if you don't send him $1000 to the specified Bitcoin address.
2. A villain will email you, telling you that he has managed to plant sophisticated malware in your computer, and that now he has records of you watching pornography. He claims that he has also gotten the email addresses of all your contacts, and that he will send the recording to all your friends if you don't pay him $2000 in Bitcoin.
3. This last threat is the most serious, because it cleverly mixes true information and lies. A cyber criminal will email you, telling you that he has gotten access to all your passwords. To demonstrate that he isn't a liar, he will email you a sample - one of your passwords. And to prove that he's such a nice guy, he will forget about you and choose another target if you pay him $1500 in Bitcoin.
In fact, the attacker has gotten access to one of your old passwords, which was included in one of the leaked password databases that can be found on the web.
Maybe your email provider got hacked three years ago, for example. Hopefully, you have changed your email password since then. But even if you haven't changed it, and your account is still vulnerable, the attacker is probably sending thousands of emails per day, so I am pretty sure that he hasn't tried to log into your account.
Sadly, many people get scared because the threat looks real, so they choose to pay the cyber criminals. This explains why some of these villains end up earning tens of thousands of dollars each day! And by using Bitcoin, the scammers managed to keep their anonymity.
What can you do to stay safe? First of all, you must understand that nobody is targeting you specifically, unless you are a VIP. The attackers send emails to millions of different addresses, hoping that at least some of the recipients will be terrified, sending the requested money. So, don't ever respond to their emails, and don't pay them a dime.
Then, be sure to change your passwords regularly. Use complex passwords for your accounts, and don't ever reuse them. To make things easier on your end, utilize a password manager. Use two-factor authentication whenever it is possible to do that; this will stop most hackers in their tracks.
It goes without saying that you should always keep your computer and devices up to date. Apply all the O.S. patches as soon as they are released and be sure to update all the installed applications as well.