DAYTON, OHIO, December 15, 2008 - Your Better Business Bureau is warning you to keep your guard up to fend off a new string of phishing e-mails making the rounds this holiday season.
Hackers and scammers are pretending to be customer service personnel from some of the biggest names in business—including FedEx, UPS and Wal-Mart. Hackers are impersonating well-known companies that do a lot of business this time of year—specifically retailers and shipping companies—to quickly earn recipients’ trust and gain access to computer drives, files and accounts to steal personal information, such as Social Security, bank or credit card numbers.
"While most of the country is spreading peace and love this holiday season, cyber criminals are spreading computer viruses and stealing identities and information," said John North, BBB president and CEO. "Hackers using e-mail phishing messages are conning people by posing as trusted businesses such as Wal-Mart, FedEx and UPS this time of year to take advantage of the seasonal increase in online shopping and shipping of merchandise all across the country."
Below are three phishing e-mails your BBB has discovered con artists are relying on this holiday season to take advantage of people:
Hackers have created phishing e-mails which pretend to be from shipping companies claiming there are problems with merchandise deliveries. Commonly, the e-mails include hyperlinks for recipients to click that will take them to other Web sites that might install malware or solicit personal information. A message currently making the rounds has a subject line that looks like, "Subject: Tracking Number 13040065504." The body of the message claims a package couldn’t be delivered and advises the recipient, "To take your package back you should print the copy of invoice that is in the added file." Of course, the attachment is actually a virus that will infect the computer if opened.
BBB advice:Instead of clicking on the e-mail link, go directly to the shipper’s Web site or contact the company via phone to confirm whether there’s a shipping problem with your package. Don’t open attachments to unsolicited e-mails.
Surveys Offering Holiday Spending Cash
To take advantage of cash-strapped holiday shoppers, phishing e-mails are circulating pretending to be from retailers, such as Wal-Mart. One e-mail has a subject line reading, "Online Survey from Wal-Mart Stores!!!" The body of the message states, "This survey has been sent only to a few people from our random generator!" and "You’ve been selected to take part in our quick and easy 9 questions survey. In return we will credit $90.00 to your account - Just for your time!" Ultimately, the e-mail includes a link to a Web site where the recipient is supposed to take the survey, but actually leads to a phishing site.
BBB advice: Don’t respond to unsolicited e-mails promising money for answering surveys. Spam e-mails offering big rewards with little effort will almost invariably cost you in the end.
E-cards are extremely popular—and inexpensive—ways to deliver season’s greetings to loved ones. Typically, with legitimate e-cards, the recipient receives an e-mail with a hyperlink that takes the user to the e-card housed on a Web site. Unfortunately, by design, e-cards are extremely easy ways for hackers to disguise their phishing e-mails and direct users to their Web sites which install viruses and malware.
BBB advice: Phishing e-mails posing as e-cards can be difficult to spot. Spelling and grammatical mistakes are huge red flags. You should think twice before clicking on e-card e-mail links as hackers often use logos from recognized brands and companies to appear legitimate.
If you receive suspicious e-mails, report them to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. Contact your BBB for more information on staying safe when shopping online this holiday season and a host of other seasonal tips. Visit www.bbb.org or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.
About Your BBB Serving Dayton and the Miami Valley
Your BBB is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses earning BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. Your BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 126 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring nearly 4 million local and national businesses and charities. Your BBB serving Dayton and the Miami Valley serves Montgomery, Greene, Clark, Darke, Miami, Preble, Shelby and northern Warren counties. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about your BBB.