How do scammers know my email address?
One of our members has had one of those emails claiming to be from an associate/boss/colleague who is busy in a meeting, asking her to get some Amazon gift vouchers for them. Luckily she didn't have time to react straight away, and later mentioned the email to one of our Village Leaders as seeming a bit odd, at which point she could alert her to the fact that this sounded exactly like a well-known scam.
This scam appears to have laid dormant for a while but it is one we’ve warned of previously. Any email from a colleague, relative, friend asking for any form of financial support, be it cash or vouchers, must be viewed suspiciously. As it’s from someone you know, a phone call will soon determine whether or not it is a genuine plea for help. Just because it’s from someone you know doesn’t mean you shouldn’t closely examine the sender’s email address to see it is genuine.
How do these scammers get hold of these email addresses? Not everyone has good virus protection installed and kept up to date so there are some computers around that allow scammers to ‘harvest’ the address books therein.
Now many us share emails with friends and relatives, especially humorous ones and when we do, it’s important we use the bcc section for the addresses we are sending to so they cannot be seen by other recipients. It is equally important to delete the senders detail when forwarding such emails on.
I have an elderly relative who can’t see the need for all this. “I only send jokes to my few friends” she says, ignoring the fact that her few friends probably also forward on to just a few friends who do likewise to their few friends. So the joke email that has caused many a smile on its journey around the world has also caused a smile on the face of the scammer who has infected just one of those recipients machines – and he now has your email address and dozens of others including all your contacts.
It’s also worth noting that many websites have been hacked over the years, email addresses (and sometimes other personal information) harvested and sold on to hackers who can then make use of them. It therefore makes sense to use a different password for each website that you use and change those passwords regularly.