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June 26, 2009

Deaths of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon spur internet fraud

Joe Campana at the Identity Theft Examiner has the following article:

"While most of the country mourns the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett, fraudsters seek opportunity by tricking heartbroken followers. The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) issued an alert today warning of increased spam campaigns, phishing attacks and malicious code attacks surrounding the star’s deaths. Some scams may result in identity theft.

Social engineering occurs when a fraudster takes advantage of a circumstance or creates situations to trick another person into doing something they would not normally do.

The deaths of Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett surprised many people. An astounding number of people are caught up in the social media blitz. Even I Twittered about Thriller last night. Some fans may be distraught or shocked. These emotions provide a “mass vulnerability” that some fraudsters are exploiting to collect information and infect computers with malicious code.

Fraudsters have taken advantage of other situations to swindle personal information and money following national and worldwide disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the Asian Tsunami. In addition to phishing and malicious code attacks, there were many charity scams.

Expect to see charity and fan paraphernalia scams associated with Michael Jackson, Farah Fawcett and Ed McMahon. Some of these scams will claim to collect donations from unsuspecting consumers for charitable causes supported by the late stars. Some scams may collect credit card and bank account information as payment for charitable donations or for the purchase of celebrity memorabilia. There will be no donations or souvenirs—the financial account information handed over will be used by the fraudsters to commit existing account fraud, a form of identity theft. Remember, fraud can occur through the internet as well as by phone, mail or in person.

The current US-CERT Alert warns the consumers of malicious emails designed to:

Record their email address, which can be used later by shady online marketers to send spam.

Download malware to personal computer and PDAs when email recipients click on a link in the email. Malware include viruses, Trojan horses, spyware, adware, worms, etc.

Lure unsuspecting people into a phishing scam. [For the definition of "phishing", see my post at]

To avoid these and other internet email scams, be cautious of unsolicited emails. Do not click on links in emails unless you are absolutely certain that you know the person that sent the email to you. Even then, be cautious because that person may have been the subject of a virus, and it was the virus that sent you a contaminated email from the person’s computer. Does the email look “out of character” from your friend? I recently received an awkwardly worded email from a local politico suggesting that I make purchases from an Asian online store. The email was out of character, and when I emailed him, he confirmed his computer was infected by a virus that sent me the email.

Keep your antivirus, anti malware software updated. New threats arise daily, so keep your protective software and operating system current."

Excellent advice, especially for fans of McMahon, Fawcett or Michael Jackson.

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