Be Aware of Phishing

Phishing is the act of trying to steal your personal details for criminal advantage. Scammers will contact you through email and social media. They want a response whether it is for you to click on a link or join a facebook group. Each step is designed to extract information.

I hear stories of pensioners that have lost a fortune or people abroad that can’t get home because they’ve been scammed. I have no sympathy for them whatsoever. You have to agree that the world has many stupid people and criminals exploit that. Would you leave the house and leave it unlocked, no, so why should you fall for the silliest scams.

The message here is that almost always the scam originates from China Russia or Eastern Europe which means they use a pidgin English. English is your first language, you went to school didn’t you, and this advantage is all you need to identify all but the most elaborate of scams.

Let’s look at the ASDA facebook scam. It used to be a TESCO offer of £250, then in February it emerged again as an ASDA offer of £500 and then again in May as a £150 offer. Presumably the scammers realised that nobody gives away £500, these third world countries think we are all rich.

If you’ve received this phishing offer and you follow the link, you will be directed to a facebook page and asked to forward the offer to 30 of your friends. A fake facebook page is created you will realise, that strangely enough you are the only member. The page was just a necessary step to be able to collect your information, and you will have had to consent for that page to receive that information. Now all your friends are on someone’s database.

It could be a costly mistake for you and your contacts including the theft of your financial details and even your identity.

What you should be looking for

Firstly, you should be looking and not thinking something is so good to be true that you are going to follow it down the rabbit hole. The first step is not to let it get past you without scrutiny.

The English language is your strength. Imagine that you are the scammer and you are trying to scam a Russian person, do you think you would pull it off by putting your carefully worded text into Google translate. I’m sure any Russian would pick up that you were not fluent. Likewise only English speaking scammers would get past you, and most are not. Additionally scammers tend to be younger people and a bit thick, so they use emojis and loud punctuation, capital letters, dashes, asterisks and all sorts of things how you might expect a teenager to communicate.

Trust your instincts. Are you really thinking about buying a conservatory from a random person that puts an emoji on the end of every sentence. If you are, then you need some maturing, and you can kiss goodbye to your life savings. Start by making a rule for yourself that you will not follow a marketing lead without analysing it and that you will not buy anything unless you are sure it is authentic.

The facebook messenger message above is designed to hook you to click and follow the link. It works on the assumption that you are greedy and stupid. But in fact it gives us so much information, enough to identify it as a scam. Let’s analyse in more detail:

  • Just look at the blurry quality of the image.
  • Look at the following line ‘Pat invited you to Claim FREE £150 ASDA Gift Card’. Why does Claim have a capital C? Why is the letter ‘a’ missing between Claim FREE? Why does Gift Card have capital letters but small cap letters on the image? Capital letters are used mainly for names and places, not randomly like this.
  • Why is there an emoji at the end? It’s highly unprofessional.

Already we have picked out fault with almost every aspect of this scam. Do you get the feeling that it was written by someone that does not speak English as a first language? Or do you think it’s possible this may have been produced by a professional marketing company employed by ASDA in an industry worth million upon million.

The first line seems fine ‘Pat forwarded a link’ because this is generated by the facebook software. Similarly the last line looks fine ‘manychat.com’ because this also is generated. This is the limited information facebook gives you but it can be useful.

Go to manychat.com and see if it exists. In this case it does. It’s a portal for small businesses that want to distribute on social media. How convenient for a scammer. A scammer has created an account and used those details to reach you on social media. With that facility they can collect your information. By the time you realise the page is fake and you unsubscribe from it, it’s already too late.

Having viewed the manychat website, do you believe ASDA would use a free bot service?

As you can see, there are many questions. Finally, ask yourself if this invitation was genuine do you think there would be so many questions. You probably would have had no reason to doubt it from the start not least because it would be professionally presented.

The internet may be cheap, but remember that big business takes it seriously and they spend millions on marketing. They do not send you pidgin English advertisements with schoolboy grammar and emojis.

Finally, you could have just gone to the ASDA website first. It tells you about this scam and advises not to click. You can report a scam and there’s also a page about mobile apps here.