By now we all know that old scam email where someone from Nigeria informs you that you have a huge settlement waiting for you, and if you just send them some basic identifying information, oh, and pay the shipping and handling fee, they’ll send you the payment. There are a few variations on the theme, but the basic idea is the same. It’s an obvious ploy to swindle you out of your own money.
Well there are a few types of SPAM I’ve been noticing lately that seem to be going around the internet more often, and I wonder how many of us are actually falling for them, or better yet, how we’re warning each other about them…
There’s that tweet where a colleague writes to you, usually by DM, “Someone is saying really nasty things about you,” and then there’s a link to click on… please, don’t tell me you’re clicking on that link! Again, the language may be a variation, such as, “You seen what this person is saying about you… terrible things,” but the point is the same. You click on that link (always shortened, by the way, to mask its true location) and you will land on a site containing malware, Trojans (not the good kind), or some other info-stealing virus.
Or how about the one where someone just sends an email to you and about six other people whose email addresses start with the same letter as yours, and they are all arranged in alphabetical order. There’s no subject, and there’s no real message, just a link to click on… OK, you’re not allowed to click on this link either. It’s obviously from someone who hacked a bunch of addresses off of some database, and who knows what is lurking in that link…
There was one going around last summer on Facebook, with the headline, “Lady Gaga Found Dead in Hotel Room,” masquerading as a BBC news release, that basically led to a dead-end survey designed to grab your info. The worst part is, once you click into it, it automatically reposted on your FB page, making it look like you shared it, and that’s how it circulated to so many people.
I will admit that I got fooled once or twice by some really seedy looking FB post, but luckily I got out before I clicked into them and spread them to my friends. I’m thinking the basic rule here is, if it looks too good (or in this case, too bad) to be true, it probably isn’t, and you will pay a price for your curiosity.
I make it a rule to never click on email or Twitter links if they are sent to me without a sufficient explanation or indication as to what I can expect therein. If I’m not sure, I’ll forward it back to the person who supposedly sent it, to see if it actually came from them.
I think the ones that currently drive me the craziest are these two:
- I get followed by someone on Twitter who has never tweeted anything and when I check their profile, I see it contains a link to an obvious porn site. Oh please.
- I get mentioned by someone in a Tweet that only contains a shortened URL, with no other explanation. A look at their profile shows that they have no profile, little or no followers, nor do they follow many people, yet they have tweeted hundreds of times.
I immediately report and block both of these as SPAM.
If you are marketing or promoting or selling anything legitimate, you should be aware of the fact that these things are happening. Regardless of the purity of your own intentions, if you present your communication in a way that even smells like one of these scams, you are not going to get many clicks on it, or worse, you may be suspect going forward. If you are in the habit of sharing shortened links to blog posts, as I am, make sure you ID the post with the name or subject of the article, and the source, if it’s a re-tweet.
If you receive SPAM via Twitter, Facebook or email, it’s best to notify the person who appeared to send it to you as soon as possible. Try not to communicate angrily to them, as chances are, their account has been hacked, and they have no idea it was sent in their name. If possible, on Twitter or FB, I send them a DM, as some people are embarrassed by public mentions of being hacked, although personally, I’d prefer to hear about it any way I can, as I don’t take it personally.
If you have been hacked, usually you can rectify the situation by changing your password and issuing a blanket warning and apology to all of your friends or followers. The quicker you deal with it, the less damage gets passed around to the other people in your circles…
How do you deal with being hacked, or learning that a friend or colleague has been hacked? Do you have an outrageous hacking or SPAM story to share? I’m sure others, (including me) would like to hear from you!
Photo courtesy of Luis Perez