Don't Get Scammed
By: Steven Topham
It takes a fair bit of knowledge to be a savvy and safe internet user. The repercussions for not being vigilant can be pretty detrimental. Your files can be taken possession of, held for ransom and identities can be stolen.
Scammers have recently been targeting church leaders. They send an email that appears to be from the pastor or any leader of the church and make some kind of simple request. Their hope is that the recipient will follow through on that request, leading to a dialogue that will get them the items or information they are seeking. The other main thing to be aware of are hackers sending viruses via email.
Responsible internet users need to stay knowledgeable of the risks of communicating online.
Impersonating someone's email address is incredibly simple. All it takes is an easily acquired software program. This allows anyone with that software to type any email address they want in the 'FROM' section of the email. The 'REPLY TO' field will be their email address. The scammer's hope is that you see a trustworthy email address, like Pastor Greg's, and don't look any further. Often times, your email client will give you a warning saying that the reply to is different than the from address and to be careful.
You should always take these warnings seriously.
Sending a virus is also very simple. Viruses are easily acquired by those who want them. They then just have to disguise the virus as something that you may think you are supposed to click or open. That process then activates the virus. Different viruses do different things, but many will first send out an email from your email account to every contact in your contacts list in an attempt to get more people to click or open and activate the virus.
A current popular scam targets people with lots of followers on social media sites like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The email comes from a potential client and asks the recipient to click a link to see some examples of what they are looking for. Once the recipient clicks the link, they are directed to a social media website. Nothing seems to happen, but if they are logged into that service on that browser, then the sender of that email now has their login credentials for that social media service. The hacker will then login to their account, change their credentials and reformat their social media so that they can try and sell whatever they are on about.
With the first bit about impersonating people being so easy, it seems pretty difficult to maintain the vigilance needed to protect yourself from a scam or virus. Unfortunately, that's the truth of it and it really is difficult. But everything about you (and probably your friends and family) is on your computer, so it is worth your dedicated attention when interacting with people online.
If you receive an unexpected link from someone, there are several ways to find out if it's legitimate or just disguising something else. Read this article to learn all those tips. This service is good for pasting a link to see where it actually goes.
If you receive an unexpected file from someone, don't open or download it. Simple as that.
I attempted to write this article as plainly as possible, but I know it will still seem like a foreign language to most of you. That's what hackers are hoping for. Using computers is like learning a language. You need a certain amount of competency to be able to safely get around. If you don't take the time to gain that little bit of ability, then you may as well be walking around the wrong part of town in a completely foreign city, holding all of your money above your head and shouting for help in a language no one understands.
The following is a note from Pastor Greg:
I want to make you all aware of an email scam that is happening to churches across the country so that you may safeguard yourselves. In this scam, the Pastor's email address is used to create a fake message asking for personal information (such as a cell phone #) or to request funds for an emergency (often through the purchase of gift cards). If you reply to such an email, it goes to the scammers who then attempt to carry out the fraud.
If you should receive an email using my name and address asking for personal information or requesting funds, do not reply. Delete the email and report it to the church office so that we may track and report any such activity. Foothills UMC pastors and staff will never make requests for personal information or donations via email. If a message appears suspicious, please confirm with us via telephone or in person.
-Rev. Greg Batson