Don’t open emails to ‘confirm’ online shopping orders you didn’t make

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted Dec. 07, 2014, at 11:09 a.m.

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Pay close attention: If you receive an email that appears to be from Home Depot, Costco, Target or Wal-Mart about an order you don’t recall placing, you might hear a faint “ho, ho, ho.”

That sound would be the laughter of the scammers, hoping you’ll click on the nasty link included in their message. That link will download malicious software that could steal your passwords or other sensitive data or do other damage to your computer.

The scheme surfaced around Black Friday, the most frenzied of shopping days when visions of bargains may have shoved most consumers’ reality checks aside. That’s what the scammers count on.

If you received a phony email and deleted it without clicking on anything, there should be no adverse effects. If you did enter a credit card number or other personal details to “confirm the order,” notify your bank or the issuer of your card right away. Tell them you were the victim of a phishing scam so they can keep an eye on your account for fraudulent purchases and issue you a new card if necessary.

The fake emails show a new level of savvy on the part of the scammers. They have copied company logos and key wording to make the email appear real — though the phony Home Depot message urges the recipient to “sing up” for supposed savings when we assume they meant “sign up.”

Wal-Mart used social media to alert consumers to the scam, posting a picture of the phony message, which included the following bungled grammar: “This letter is to advise you about the order we have which is addressed to you. You have 4 days to pick it in any Local Store of Walmart.”

Then comes the instruction to “follow this link” for more information. However, clicking there will certainly spell trouble. Wal-Mart advises customers who have placed orders to delete the bogus emails and instead log into their website at walmart.com to check the status of orders and delivery details.

As always, keep virus software up to date on all computers.

“Crooks understand it’s easier to catch victims off-guard during the holidays,” security guru Brian Krebs writes on his website, krebsonsecurity.com.

Cyber junkies will want to know the malware is called Asprox. Krebs describes it as a “nasty Trojan that harvests email credentials and other passwords from infected machines, turns the host into a zombie for relaying junk email … and perpetuates additional Asprox malware attacks.”

Krebs wrote recently that Malcovery — a company that studies email attacks — has identified several basic tipoffs in the subject line of fake messages.

“Acknowledgement of order,” “Order Status,” “Order Confirmation,” “Thank you for buying from [company name]” and “Thank you for your order” are among the subjects most often used by spammers.

If you’re the victim of such a scheme, you can file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The center is a collaboration of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. You should also file a report with your local law enforcement agency.

You can read PC World’s article on safer online shopping at pcworld.com/article/2018995/safe-online-shopping-10-tips-to-avoid-getting-burned.html.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

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