Online Connections–Vetting on the Internet, Email and Social Media for Scammers and Trolls
Happy New Year and welcome back to a new year of Realms of Relationships. This is my corner at Smorgasbord Blog Magazine where Sally generously, gives me a featured spot here to share some nuggets of experience on various aspects of communication and relationships we encounter and form through life, where I talk about how I analyze and deal with same issues.
In this first post of the year, I thought I’d talk about how to deal with online scammers and emails, and discuss the importance of vetting people who want to connect with us on social media. Relationship and romantic and business connections, and how to search out the predators who lurk, will be part two on this topic for next month’s post.
Much of the world has at least somewhat of a digital existence since the advent of the internet became an appendage part of our lives these past few decades. Internet has become a whole new entity of itself and some who aren’t so internet savvy have to be extra diligent about who they allow into their circles – even more so – into their lives, digitally.
Now, we all know the many pros about living digitally, but do we know how to recognize the cons?
Social media, email and online dating apps can become threatening when allowing or inviting the wrong type of people into our circles. It’s essential we verify who we are speaking with on the other side of the internet before we allow them into our business.
On the pro side, social media and group apps are a good thing to keep us engaged, and a good means to interact with our peers and family. We can Zoom with friends, family, and for meetings, which of course has been a lifeline for many during this Coronavirus time.
We can instant message our friends and family through apps and texts. And we can make connections with like-minded people globally. And of course, there are numerous apps online for dating. But I caution to be diligent on those apps, and I’ll get to that next issue.
On the con side, in order to make healthy and honest connections in this era of trolls and scammers, we should all be doing our due diligence verifying the people we allow in our circles, making sure they are authentic. Before we make new bonds or meet up with people we’ve met on apps, it’s essential that we do a little background checking. Just as it’s equally important to verify the true source of an email before allowing ourselves to be scammed. And these topics are what I’m going to cover here today.
Let’s begin with scam emails and how to detect them – what we need to look for when siphoning out a suspicious email. For example, I’ll share about some usual scammy emails I have personally received over time – scam emails from my bank, my government, Amazon, and Paypal and how I deal with them.
In the past few weeks alone, I’ve been inundated with emails from Amazon, informing me that my account is under investigation and has been closed due to suspicious activity, or requires my attention. The messages all ‘conveniently’ offer me a link so I can log in to my account and check what the ensuing problem is. DON’T! Do not click on that link! In fact, when you receive any kind of such emails NEVER EVER click on the supplied link in the email to sign into your account to investigate. NEVER! This is how the hackers get into your account, you are opening the door for them. Their intent with these emails are , they are hoping you do exactly that, open it!
I’m beyond recognizing these scams because they are so frequent. I just auto delete and don’t even bother going over to Amazon to check anything because I know the ruse. But for those of you who get startled and alarmed by such scary information and feel the need to verify, just GO directly to Amazon URL and log in to your account DIRECTLY FROM AMAZON. You are going to the source direct. If there is any problem with your account, Amazon will be only too happy to leave a notification on your account.
How to recognize scam mail –a huge tell of a scammy email is to look directly within the URL address from the sender. Any reputable company sending email will have no extra gobbledygook attached to the sender name. When you receive email from Amazon it will say something like -“Amazon dot com@support or something of its ilk, but it WILL NOT HAVE any other tails attached to the URL, such as random letters and numbers or names – like this: (taken from one of the numerous scam mails in my junk bin)
Mail sent by Assistant Amazon: We found a suspicious transaction on your payments profile Sun, December 20, 2020 [6894-593980-LBXUJ72G]
Customer Service <norpl-SLQOV8GOcWH2xf1HunY8cuEUX5@AlanLinares.onmicrosoft.com>
Sun 2020-12-20 1:25 PM
Here is the message in the body:
“Amazon Customer Protection.”
In this spot is the box they want me to click on
The payment for your latest order is failed. It appears that some of the billing details associated with your account might have expired or were otherwise changed. Please update your account information by Sun, December 20, 2020 to avoid limitation to access.
Also, look at the bottom of the email signature for telltale weird stuff and unprofessional signature. But your two main flashing warnings are a wonky URL from the sender, and a ‘click this link’ offering embedded in the email. No reputable company or institution will EVER leave an embedded log in link within the email. Check out the signature at the end of the above email:
Thank you for making this a priority.
Headquarters : Seattle, Washington, United States
Order Date : Sun, December 20, 2020
That’s it! Anyone can write that signature!
As most of you reading this are familiar with email correspondence from Amazon, their sender address is from plain old Amazon.ca, or in many of your cases – Amazon.com, no names, letters or nonsense attached to sender name.
This same information applies to any email from any company or institution you do business with. Anywhere! Some companies offer a ‘spoofing’ or ‘phishing’ email address you can forward the scam email to so they can find and get rid of yet another scammer. I try to always forward a scam email to these company’s spoof or phishing address so they can be alerted.
Here’s what Amazon suggests:
To report a phishing or spoofed email or webpage:
1. Open a new email and attach the email you suspect is fake. For suspicious webpages, copy and paste the link into the email body.
Note: If you can’t send the email as an attachment, you can forward it.
2. Send the email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Sending the suspicious email as an attachment is the best way for us to track it.
Paypal also requests we send scam emails to them so they can eliminate yet another scammer. This is their advice:
If you believe you’ve received a phishing email, follow these steps right away: Forward the entire email to email@example.com. Do not alter the subject line or forward the message as an attachment.
Similarly, most institutions have a number or email you can forward scam emails too. I always do. If we all did, we could eliminate many of these thieves.
All the same information applies to scam banking or government emails. If the URL is wonky and there is a link offered in the email to log in to your account to rectify DO NOT! Always go directly to the website of your account and log in safely. Then do your fellow man a favor and report the scam to the appropriate authorities. In my case, when I received an email from our Canada Revenue Taxation branch urging me to login because they had found money for me, I Googled up the appropriate source to inform of the scam and wound up calling the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) Fraud Squad to report it and they thanked me for doing so.
If the government has money for me, I’m already linked with auto deposit from them, and they know my address. Trust me, the government doesn’t take the time to send you a ‘hello’ email, ‘we’re sending you money.’ It’s auto deposited. And if they don’t deposit what’s expected, they’ll forward a letter by mail explaining so.
I use the exact same protocol for scam bank emails alerting me to ‘a problem with my account and because of it, my account has been frozen until rectified.’ These brazen types of scams even come by text on my mobile phone. I find them hilarious considering my bank doesn’t even have my cell phone number. Delete! Delete!
Now, let’s talk about social media apps. Facebook is notorious for its trolls and lonely hearts wanderers. Besides the disinformation and lies Facebook allows on its platform, it also has many trolls instigating and desecrating truth, but many others are stalking some and trying to form romantic relationships. How do I know this? Because I run a few groups on Facebook, including a political one. And I get numerous requests in my notifications from weirdos trying to hit on me! Firstly, I don’t EVER engage with trolls. When I receive rude or ignorant political comments, I click on the commenter’s name, which takes me to their page and I block them. If I deem them threatening, while on their page, I both, block, and report them. If they try any crap in any of my groups I run, I just report and then boot them.
Now, about making friendships and alliances online, that entails a deeper kind of investigating.
Let’s go back to Facebook as an example – I frequently get notifications that ‘so and so’ would like to be my friend. And this is where it’s important to do some checking. Here are some things to ask yourself before adding that ‘new’ friend:
- Do I know this person?
- How do I know this person?
- Do I want them privy to the posts I make on my personal page?
As an author on Facebook I have two pages, a personal page and an author page. I use my author page to share blog posts, writing posts, books, and memes relating to all the things I advocate for and relate to the books and stories I write. On my personal page I post memes about things I believe in, injustices, current events, humor, personal updates, and memes that speak a message, or even things about my sentiments on issues. That’s why it’s called my ‘personal’ page. If you aren’t in line with my posts, then you shouldn’t friend me. And that isn’t just for trolls who will never be invited, but for all friend requests. This is why 99% of my personal posts are set to be viewed by ‘friends’ only. I’m not looking to make waves with others who don’t approve or make judgments, and if I don’t feel you may be able to handle the things I post, I decline invitations.
So how do I vet these requests? I never just accept them, unless I know them. I visit the page of the person who requested the friendship and take a look at what types of things they like to post. I also read their ‘about’ blurb to see what I can learn about them or their opinions. If they are within the realms of my criteria, I’ll accept. If I feel otherwise, I decline. If I feel real curious about that person, I’ll continue on my investigation looking through various other social media accounts of that person.
There’s an old saying, an actual quote by Maya Angelou – “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” We have much to learn from the posts and articles people share. It’s up to us to do our digital search to vet the people we allow into our circles for various reasons:
- We don’t need a public clashing of personality or beliefs and rude comments left on our posts
- We should know something about someone before we want to attach our names to their circles. Online reputation is of utmost importance to keep clean, especially if we conduct our business online.
- Allowing anyone to be our friend on Facebook, allows them to post and comment on our timeline. We don’t want to have to worry about unsavory comments left on our pages.
I hope this article has helped to enlighten you about just a few of the scams going on around cyberworld, and hope I’ve made it clear to NEVER log in to any account directly through an email. Do your diligence on social media apps so you don’t get caught in the web of trolls.
Next month, I’m going to get into Online Dating Apps and what to beware of, how to make a presentable profile and how to vet potential romantic interests.
If you’d like to share any of your own experience with a scam or a troll, let’s discuss!
My thanks to Debby for clarifying what can be a minefield when we are active online alongside the scammers.
Debby Gies is a Canadian nonfiction/memoir author who writes under the pen name of D.G. Kaye. She was born, raised, and resides in Toronto, Canada. Kaye writes about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues.
D.G. writes to inspire others. Her writing encompasses stories taken from events she encountered in her own life, and she shares the lessons taken from them. Her sunny outlook on life developed from learning to overcome challenges in her life, and finding the upside from those situations, while practicing gratitude for all the positives.
When Kaye isn’t writing intimate memoirs, she brings her natural sense of humor into her other works. She loves to laugh and self- medicate with a daily dose of humor.
I love to tell stories that have lessons in them, and hope to empower others by sharing my own experiences. I write raw and honest about my own experiences, hoping through my writing, that others can relate and find that there is always a choice to move from a negative space, and look for the positive.
“Live Laugh Love . . . And Don’t Forget to Breathe!”
“For every kindness, there should be kindness in return. Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”
When I’m not writing, I’m reading or quite possibly looking after some mundane thing in life. It’s also possible I may be on a secret getaway trip, as that is my passion—traveling.
Books by D.G. Kaye
One of the recent reviews for Words We Carry
Words We Carry’ is a gem. Kaye writes with a depth of wisdom and understanding and the whole book is relatable because of her insights. She paints a roadmap to show how early memories, others’ opinions and the events throughout our lives create the words about ourselves we carry around. She clearly demonstrates how these shape our thoughts, words and actions and how self-awareness can help us to change the words that do not serve us. ‘Thank you’ dear Kaye, for writing this book.
Read all the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK – follow Debby: Goodreads – : Blog: D.G. Kaye Writer – Twitter: @pokercubster – Linkedin: D.G. Kaye – Facebook: D.G. Kaye – Instagram: D.G. Kaye – Pinterest: D.G. Kaye
Thank you for joining us today and Debby would love to hear from you.. thanks Sally.