From Shaman’s Rock
By Jim Poling Sr.
My laptop computer is driving me crazy.
It’s like it has been invaded by those evil clowns you see in television commercials. You know, the ones with white faces, fiery red lips, wicked red smiles and tufts of curly red or blue hair framing a bald head.
They sneak about in the shadows, concocting new ways to make life difficult. They work quietly and efficiently, grinning mischievously while driving you whacko.
They are not just in my laptop. They’ve also invaded my cell phone and my iPad.
Most people call clowns Bozos. I call the ones in my computer equipment Spam.
Spam, in the form of dishonest text messages, emails and telephone calls, is increasing. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says that last year it received fraud and cybercrime reports totalling $530 million in victim losses. That was almost a 40-per-cent increase from the previous year.
Those figures don’t actually reflect the full extent of spam fraud because the centre says most people don’t report spamming that is minor or just annoying.
There really is no defence against email and text spam, or the spam phone calls that come at any time of day or night. You can’t stop them. If you do find ways, the spammers come up with ways around them.
I now have roughly 500 blocked spam addresses on my cell phone. However, once a spammer discovers the block he changes the address slightly and starts again.
Some of spam is not just annoying, it’s downright dangerous. It can contain malicious links or attachments that infect your system with malware or viruses.
The purpose of most scams is to get at your information and use it to get money from you.
We put our email and text addresses up for sale or trade when we accept the privacy policies of services or websites that we visit. Those policies are long, painful reads that often include your agreement to your information being passed on to others. Who reads them when you simply are trying to find something simple on a company website?
Email addresses are worth money to scammers. They buy them in bulk to add to their mailing lists. A simple push of a button sends spam out to tens of thousands of innocent people and just one sucker falling for the scam makes it all worthwhile.
Phishing – pretending to be a legitimate major retailer or service – has become a favourite way for scammers to trick consumers.
Scammers copy a company logo and use it in a phony email. The message might say you have a $45 credit from a recent purchase. Click a link, fill in your credit card or bank info and the $45 will be deposited for you.
Retail giant Walmart has become the most imitated company. Its brand name was used in 16 percent of all phishing schemes globally during the first quarter of this year, says a study by Check Point Research, a California-based cyber threat intelligence company. That’s an increase from 13 percent in the last quarter of 2022.
Other top companies imitated by scammers are the delivery company DHL, Linkedin and Netflix. I’ve also blocked phishing schemes from Lowes building supplies, Costco Best Buy and a variety of pharmaceutical companies.
Scammers also hack the accounts of people you know then send you fake messages that appear to be from someone you trust.
Basically we are alone when it comes to fighting these cyber crimes. If you report a phishing attack or other email fraud to police you’ll likely be told to call
the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by telephone at 1-888-495-8501.
When you call that outfit someone will take down your information and say thank you. The centre simply collects information on fraud and identity theft and compiles details of past and current scams to pass on to the general public.
There’s little direct action any government agency can take. We are all on our own on this one. The best any of us can do is be very watchful and cautious, don’t open anything that looks the least bit suspicious and if a company wants something from you, give them a call or go into one of their stores.