Vodafone scam alert!

Yes, you can get SPAM on your phone!

I received a couple of these txt messages last night (you shall remain nameless!) which should immediately jump out at you as being a scam.

This isn’t the first time these type of messages have done the rounds, but this one is so fake it’s laughable. Why? Oh boy, where to start…

  • It clearly contains a spelling mistake, bad grammar and a lack of punctuation
  • It didn’t come from Vodafone
  • It sounds too good to be true (which means it most certainly is!) Spend $2 and get $50 – yeah right!
  • Deals and promos from Vodafone always contain a link to their website for more info or a phone number you can call

And if you want confirmation it’s fake from Vodafone themselves, check out this forum post by Paul Brislen – Vodafone’s External Communications Manager.

I promised those that got sucked in a lecture, so here goes… after the break that is…

Why the lecture? Because in falling for this simple scam you have just demonstrated clearly that you could become a victim of online fraud and/or identity theft.

While this scam is fairly benign, others are not, and good(?) online fraudsters will go to much greater lengths to suck you in by making highly believable emails and websites that look real but are fake. The most common attack is a phishing attack – you get an email (supposedly) from your bank asking you to update your details. You click a link, visit a website that looks like your bank’s, enter your details like the good customer you are and BAM! you’ve just given away the keys to the kingdom.

As you should well know, banks NEVER send emails asking you to update your details. Likewise credit card companies. Please please please be vigilant about who you trust online, including emails and websites. You should always be on the lookout for unexpected things relating to any personal information and if in doubt, back out. Online fraud is a big problem, including here in New Zealand, and ALL our banks have pages with security info and suggestions: ANZ, ASB, BNZ, Kiwi Bank, National Bank, Westpac. Even ISP’s and Telco’s issue  warnings frequently (for example that same Vodafone forum has this post regarding a hoax email currently “doing the rounds”).

But best practices for online security don’t just stop with banks, ISPs or telcos. The most common way people get a virus on their computer is to click a link on a website or pop-up window purporting to help make your computer more secure, or to remove a virus that has just been found(!) etc. In short, these scams feed on fear and inexperience of the end user, often with devastating effects including identity theft and complete loss of data.

So to my advice. And most of this is common sense.

  • If it sounds too good to be true it probably is!
  • Use a firewall and anti-virus program and keep them up to date. These will help stop hackers and viruses, but you still need to be careful!
  • Keep your programs (especially your web browser) and your operating system up to date with any fixes or security patches
  • Never open email attachments from someone you don’t know or that you’re not expecting – especially executable files with .exe on the end, these are probably viruses (even if you know the sender you don’t know if their computer is safe and virus free)
  • Use strong passwords – make them long and hard to remember, ie include numbers and symbols if possible and avoid words or phrases that can be guessed. A good practice is to also have different passwords for different websites (eg online banking vs. your favourite forum) so that if one is guessed/stolen that person doesn’t have access to all your other private data
  • Never respond to an email or visit a website that requests your personal details – especially if it relates to your bank or credit card company – including any pin numbers or passwords (and never write these down)
  • If you want to purchase online with a credit card, only do so from sites you trust and be sure the website is using a secure connection (look for “https” in the address, and note that different browsers also display yellow or green backgrounds/icons near the address and may also display a little padlock on the status bar of your browser when the site is secure) And always log out of those sites when you’re finished (including your bank).
  • Never do online shopping or banking on public computers (such as at internet cafes) – others may be watching or those computers may have keyloggers stealing your details.

Be safe out there!

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About Chris
A self confessed geek, meteorologist (aka weather forecaster), father & proud kiwi mainlander living, working & playing in Wellington, New Zealand.

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