How reasonable are scammers?

By Heather Taylor, guest writer.

How reasonable are scammers? Very. In fact, so reasonable that any small businessperson can fall for a scam. Getting sucked in has nothing to do with intelligence.

Taking the bait has to do with being in a hurry and not noticing the small things. It also has to do with random actions that online security systems take against legitimate contacts. When someone we know is labelled as a spammer, the incorrect label confuses everything, and we start to doubt ourselves. What’s a scam? What’s real?

Case in point, Gmail told me that a legitimate supplier was a scammer. I had been dealing with them by email on and off for months. I telephoned to find out if they had sent me an email on X topic, and when. They checked their system and verified that they had done as I described. Gmail was wrong.

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But! I was expecting remittance advice (payment notification) from a client organisation on the 20th of July 2022 in emailed PDF format. On the morning of the 20th, as expected, I received the email I thought was from my client. I opened it.

And then, luckily, I hesitated — because it was early morning, no one was hassling me, and I was not in a hurry — and something didn’t feel right about the email.

I looked again. The email was from a name I didn’t know, but I just assumed this was a newbie in the client’s finance team, a reasonable assumption because I had received emails from two finance staff previously, without introductions. So far, so good.

But their email address didn’t look right. And then, I realised that the email was copied to umpteen people I didn’t know! A bad sign.

Instead of clicking on the PDF, I searched the Web for “malicious PDF remittance advice”. Instantly, warnings popped up, like this:

I was lucky because if I had clicked on that PDF, my personal details could have been harvested and my machine infected with malware. This can lead to all sorts of bad things: identity theft, virtual bank ram raids, and with both of those, a guaranteed miserable existence for a long time to come.

The real remittance advice landed in my inbox in the afternoon of the 20th, the same day.

The lesson here? It pays NOT to be in a hurry.

  • DON’T reply or click on links / attachments — take a deep breath and look again. Fake emails are designed to create a sense of urgency, excitement or fear.
  • Make sure you know the sender’s email and other contact details. If you don’t, look on your existing contact lists.
  • Check that any company logo appears the same as what’s on the sender’s website, with no mistakes or distortions in colour, scale, border or detail.
  • Check the grammar. If there are a few slip-ups, you’re in the red zone.
  • Make sure the email is addressed to you by name, and it’s not a “Dear Ma’am” or “Dear Manager” copy-and-paste job.
  • If the email is offering money, review it several times. Even if it’s from the IRD. Check the originator’s website.
  • Pick up the phone instead of answering the email, and verify if the person on the other end sent you it — use the phone number you already have on your phone.

TOP TIP: Scammers sell email addresses just like mail order catalogues used to sell mailing addresses — and if you’re on one, you’ll be scammed regularly.

Heather Taylor is the company director of First Person Editor, a full-service document preparation for business, government and academic publications offering a wide range of professional copy editing, proofreading, report writing, formatting and more.

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By |2023-01-10T16:45:55+13:00August 8th, 2022|website design|Comments Off on How reasonable are scammers?

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