Beware the dark side

by Paul Campbell

As baby boomers reach the golden years, their retirement is increasingly made more interesting with technology, the internet and smart phones keeping them connected with family and friends across the world.

There are a number of community service groups bringing those with sudden time on their hands into the computer world, but many people simply enjoy teaching themselves.

But with this comes the opportunity for the unscrupulous, and nary a week goes by without a story of an unsuspecting internet user, often elderly, being scammed, some by offering opportunities to earn thousands of dollars a week.

The Department of internal Affairs offers anti-spam advice and for up-to-date information on scams running in New Zealand visit the Ministry of Consumer Affairs Scam Watch website.

The most common scam to watch for is the so-called Nigerian fee. This longrunning scam offers you a percentage of millions of dollars in exchange for an up-front fee and letting the sender use your bank account to transfer the funds from where they are currently held. The Nigerian letter has many variations, and despite its name can come from anywhere in the world. Prize notifications tell you that you have won a prize in a lottery you haven’t entered. But you have to pay money to the operators before they will ‘release the money’.

Phishing attacks use ‘spoof’ emails and fraudulent websites designed to fool recipients into divulging personal financial data such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank and other account usernames and passwords. By hijacking the trusted brands of well-known banks, online retailers and credit card companies, phishers are able to convince up to five percent of recipients to respond to them. 

Do not forward hoax emails. Take a common sense approach when you receive strangely worded or sensationalist emails in your inbox — if you think the email is a hoax it probably is. Do your friends a favour and don’t pass them on.

Unless the email is from a known and trusted source, do not open attachments or click on links, as these can infect your computer with malicious programmes. 

Think twice about emails from trusted sources but are ‘forwards’ of joke or chain letter types, these can also be dangerous.

It boils down to common sense. If in doubt, leave it out.