New e-mail scam preys on parents' fears

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - The Better Business Bureau reports a new scam preys on parents or guardians of children by promising to provide information on child predators in their community.

The scam involves an e-mail alert titled something akin to “Pedophile alert” or “Alert: There is a child predator living near you!” When the e-mail is opened, it warns the reader that a child predator has moved into the area and provides a link with more information.

But clicking the link infects your computer with malware that will attempt to steal your identity, computer passwords and credit card information.

Arun Vishwanath, an associate professor of communication at the University at Buffalo, said these scams are more common than people realize.

“If you look at the crime statistics, violent crime is down since the 60s, 70s and 80s. It’s at an all time low. But if you look at phishing scams today and cybercrimes, they’ve increase by 2,300 percent,” he said.

Things to look for when attempting to determine if the e-mail you’ve received is a scam:

  • Check out the “from” field. Scammers can mask email addresses, making them appear to come from legitimate sources. Look out for email addresses that don’t match the organization name used in the message.
  • Typos and grammar.  Organization logos and email formats can easily be copied, but bad grammar and poor writing typically indicate that a message is a scam.
  • Check URLs. Hover over a URL to determine its real destination. Usually, the hyperlink text will say one thing and the link will point somewhere else.
  • Personalized emails. Scams often pretend to be personalized, but it is actually blast emails. If the receiver never signed up for custom email alerts, the person should not be receiving them.
  • Be careful with “unsubscribe” options. It’s better to just delete this type of solicitation. If you choose unsubscribe, you could open yourself up for more unwanted spam email.
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