Saturday, 2 June 2012

New Internet Users Beware!

The internet can be a confusing place for any new subscriber to the world wide web. Far from being a warm welcome, the internet can often seem daunting and full of hidden horrors. In addition to having to learn a wide range of applications and terminology, the new user has to contend with the ever increasing risk of malicious intent from the fraudsters and scam merchants of this world.

Setting off to explore the world wide web without a firewall and some sort of software protection is both irresponsible and an invite for trouble. Easy access to the internet internationally has ensured that spammers, scam merchants, fraudsters and general conmen are all out to get you from almost every corner of the globe. Just browsing the internet innocently can result in your PC becoming infested with spyware which can blast you with pop ups, or worse still – spy on everything you do online.

Whilst new users sign up in their thousands there is rising evidence to suggest that a good number of experienced internet users are ‘switching off’ from browsing the net due to concerns over security and repetitive spam and browser attacks. With chip and pin credit cards there is also the added risk of further credit card fraud by criminal gangs having to re target the internet in compensation for face to face credit card transactions becoming more secure.

Day after day we are told how wonderful the net is – indeed this is so. However, not so wonderful is the constant bombardment of porn, pop ups, rogue diallers that will cost you a fortune and all manner of persistent and sinister emails, of which many can appear very convincing to anyone who is inexperienced. The internet can actually be a very dangerous place.

Perhaps the most famous scam of all can be referred to as the 419 scam or Advanced Fee Fraud which is reported to be the third largest industry in Nigeria, netting around £8 billion per annum. This particular scam relies on trapping new users to the internet who are led to believe they have chanced upon a golden opportunity to make some serious money. An email reports that some ex president of a massive oil refinery is sitting on thousands or millions of dollars in cash and needs your help to spirit it out of their troubled country. Some scams are ingenious and well thought out whilst other variations can be extremely childish and barely plausible.

The 419 scam in particular, relies on the victim’s greed and gullibility. The initial email is normally a desperate plea for getting money out of Nigeria or some other troubled war torn African nation, with the sole aim of extracting as much money as they think they can squeeze out of your bank account to cover the imaginary fees and costs for a non existent transaction. Once you have entered into correspondence with the scammer you are then persuaded to pass on details of your bank account, arrange to pay local taxes, solicitors costs and all manner of additional expenses relating to the transfer of this imaginary money.

Some lottery schemes work on the same principle and ask you for the tax on winnings before you can get paid your lump sum – basically another variation of the same 419 scam. Even though these people are dangerous criminals, there are some victims who have met them face to face and have been kidnapped for ransom, tortured or even murdered. Never agree to meet anyone over the internet and be very wary of this type of fraud.

Despite the obvious dangers it would appear that many internet users are fighting back. Several websites designed to fight the scammers are now hitting these criminals hard by wasting their time, replying to their emails and spinning them along into uncessary expense and confusion. This is a kind of reverse 419 scam but not for financial reward. This type of activity is not for the faint hearted and not something we would recommend for any inexperienced internet user.

In 2003 a Nigerian diplomat in Prague was shot by a 72 year old Czech in revenge for the fact that he had lost his life savings in an oil investment 419 scam. Nigerian banks and corporate business has been hampered severely by Nigeria’s bad reputation to the extent that many foreign companies no longer accept orders or trade with Nigeria as a result.

Once on the internet it is amazing to find how easily you have won a car, the lottery or have found the confidence of a complete stranger the other side of the world who wants to give you millions of dollars. Or, how about that fantastic little program that you downloaded that lets you watch free porn all day long, what was it called? Porn dialler. The happiness is short lived after you receive your first telephone bill.

If you receive strange emails ‘out of the blue’ that contain offers just too good to be true, the fact is – they are just that – too good to be true. Delete them and move on.

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