Email Scams Are Getting More Sophisticated

Photo by Túrelio, available under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license. Some rights reserved.

Identity theft on the Internet is just as real as somebody smashing in your car window to steal your wallet. Sometimes the online damage can be worse.

Scam artists thrive during tough economic times like these. I recently almost got taken in by one of them.

After spending the past three years trying to get my business off the ground, I’ve decided to go back to work. It’s a tough economic climate right now, so I’ve been broadening my horizons, as it were. I saw a few customer service representative listings on Craigslist. After my experience with the unnamed international shipping company and because I need to pay my rent, I thought, why not? The work can’t be too difficult. I’ve worked on phones before. It’ll do for now.

So, I applied to three different CSR jobs. A few days later I received an email from what I thought was one of the companies. (Two of the ads were blind ads without specific company or contact information.) The email included a link to a legitimate website, listed a legitimate address and requested that I complete a pre-screening survey.

No Immediate Red Flags

I followed the instructions in the email, answered the survey questions and attached another copy of my resume. The alleged “HR” person wrote that I would be contacted within 72 hours of completing the survey.

Sure enough, within 72 hours I received an email from “Carole” telling me I had passed the pre-screening and could come into the office either the following Monday or Wednesday for orientation! Yay! Now I just needed to provide a couple of more pieces of information and click on the link in the email to conduct a “soft” credit check, after which I would be required to send only the reference number to the credit check, not the actual report, to another gentleman in the company.

Although red flags were starting to go off in my head, I was still prepared to move forward with the process. Fortunately for me, I’m a stickler for details and wanted to know some little piece of information that was not provided in the email, so I went to what I thought was the company website to get the phone number (there was no contact number in the email; the correspondence had strictly been electronic). Imagine my surprise when I find a big read headline at the top of the homepage: “Beware of Telegenisys-jobs.com.” Now, I was seeing red flags AND hearing warning sirens…

Danger, Danger

It turns out the scammers set up a dummy email account on telegenisys-jobs.com and when people responded to their phony Craigslist ad, they sent out emails with links to an outsourcing company called Telegenisys.com! The business website was legitimate, but the emails about the job were not! According to comments on the company’s blog, the fake ads were running on Craigslist and Monster.com all over the country.

I dodged a bullet. I’m sure other people weren’t so lucky and may have become identity theft victims. Fortunately, it sounds as if the scam was nipped in the bud pretty quickly by the legitimate company (which was getting phone calls about these nonexistent customer service jobs).

I consider myself to be web savvy and reasonably intelligent. But I’ve just learned you can never be too careful. Always verify the legitimacy of the company and the site’s security (look for that little lock icon on the bottom right corner of your monitor) before ever giving out personally identifying information such as social security number or checking account or credit card information.

Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

Here are a few links for more information on ways to avoid identity theft and what to do in case it happens to you.

  • Federal Trade Commission is the official government agency that regulates Internet commerce.
  • Dunn County News Article is kind of obscure, but it provides good information. I wrote the article last year after reading a police report about a college student who was allegedly scammed when trying to get a car loan on the Internet.
  • Protect Yourself for Free An article in the Chicago Tribune suggests you don’t have to pay for credit monitoring services–you can do it yourself.
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About Phoebe King

Phoebe is a Chicago-based writer, social media maven and tail-end baby boomer working on her first book about extraordinary people who find success after 40. When not on her laptop, Phoebe can be found gardening, walking her dog or hanging out with friends at her favorite Thai restaurant.
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3 Responses to Email Scams Are Getting More Sophisticated

  1. Nancy Ocampo says:

    Thanks for putting this up Phoebe.

    Like

  2. Hermite says:

    Oddly enough I just got an email from UPS informing me that there is a package coming to me from Spain and it is worth over $50,000. The sender, who neglected to put their return address on it, also neglected to insure it. So they sent me a handy link to click and see how much money I need to send to cover this. Riiiight. They did use a legit address for UPS in Atlanta, but a different phone number.

    I tried to email UPS but haven’t figured out how. Maybe your links will show me some place to report this.

    Like

  3. ElizOF says:

    To Hermite, even clicking on those links can be hazardous to your internet/computer health. I would suggest deleting the whole thing especially when you don’t know the source; although sometimes they use other means.
    You are right Phoebe, it is getting crazier and we must become very vigilant.
    After all, this is National Cyber Security Awareness month and Google has a great article on how to be aware: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/national-cyber-security-awareness-month.html
    The scams are growing and the phishing is insidious.. yikes.
    E

    Like

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