Are you being scammed?
Internet fraud, spam and scams can affect anyone at any time. Being aware of what to look for and knowing what to do is important to protect yourself, your family and your business.
Common scams sent by email
- Get Rich Quick Schemes
This offers opportunities for you to earn thousands of dollars a week, however this scheme is reliant on you paying money to the sender of the email and dependent on you selling this scheme to others (pyramid scheme).
- Nigerian Fee Scam
This is a long running scam which offers you a percentage of millions of dollars in exchange for an up front fee and letting the sender use your bank account. This scam has many variations, and despite its name can come from anywhere in the world. Ultimately you are required to pay a fee and the millions of dollars that are promised never show up.
- Prize Notifications
These emails tell you that you have won a prize in a lottery that you have not entered into. However you have to pay money to the operators of the lottery before they release any money to you. Once again once payment is made the “winnings” are never received.
- Phishing (Spoof Emails)
These Phishing attacks use a “spoof” email and fraudulent websites designed to fool recipients into divulging personal financial data such as credit card numbers, bank account details, user names and passwords. By hijacking trusted brands of well known banks, online retailers and credit card companies, it is estimated that these scammers are able to convince 5% of recipients to respond to them. These scammers can then access these bank accounts and transfer funds offshore.
Ransomware is used by hackers to remotely access a computer, then encrypt its contents. Money is demanded before the victims can regain access to their data. NetSafe and law enforcement agencies warn that most ransomware hackers operate out of eastern Europe. There is no honour among thieves, and almost no chance you’ll see your files if you fork over money.It was estimated in April this year that there are 108 ransomware attacks each day in New Zealand.
- Trademark Database Scams
This scam is quite common and usually involves an entity sending an invoice for publishing trademark registrations in an overseas or international database set up by the sender. Such databases have no value as the details of trademark registrations will already be recorded with irrelevant trademark registry.The Commerce Commission recently issued a warning to New Zealand trademark owners about invoices sent by TM Publisher. Since the warning was issued the Commerce Commission reached an interim agreement with TM Publisher whereby TM Publisher agreed that any business or individuals who have paid an invoice from 6 April 2016 will be refunded directly by ANZ Bank. The Commerce Commission is still in negotiations with the Company over any payments received before 6 April 2016.
- Unsolicited trademark renewal reminders
These “reminder” letters may misleadingly give the impression that they have been sent by official organisations. They will often offer to renew New Zealand trademark registrations and cost significantly more than reputable Intellectual Property Service Providers. They may also not provide the additional services usually offered by normal reputable Intellectual Property Service Providers, such as acting as an address for service.
- Domain Name Squatting
Emails may be received claiming that another party has applied to register a domain name that incorporates the relevant brand of the recipient. Sometimes these entities, or someone related to them, may in fact have registered a domain name themselves and will attempt to sell the domain name to the brand owner at an inflated price.
How to protect yourself against scam emails
- Do not reply. A reply only serves to confirm that your email address is active and ready for further “offers”.
- Notify your own Internet Service Provide or IT support. They may be able to advise you where the filters can be placed on your email programmes to stop such emails.
- Do not forward hoax emails. If you receive strangely worded or sensationalist emails, do your friends a favour and do not pass them on.
- Unless the email is from a known and trusted source, do not open attachments or click on links, as these can infect your computer with malicious programmes.
- Think twice about emails from trusted sources but are “forwards” of joke or chain letter types, these can also be dangerous.
- Never disclose your PIN, passwords or personal details over the phone or by email to third parties. Your bank will never contact you and ask you for these details.
- Regular backing up of data to ensure that should a ransomware attack or virus occur that you do not lose all of your data.
What should you do if you receive an email and you are unsure?
- If something seems too good to be true or someone is asking you to pay for something so you can receive a larger benefit, then it is almost certainly a scam. Doing an internet search on the entity that is forwarding the email can sometimes reveal the scam or alternatively you can go to the Department of Internal Affairs website, the police website or the Commerce Commission website and search for email scams. The Department of Internal Affairs website contains a section specifically for reported scams. You can also contact the London Metropolitan Police Fraud Squad Fraud Alert website
- If you remain unsure and are still concerned then delete the email as it is most likely a scam. Alternatively you can contact Franklin Law for assistance.
The information contained in this paper is necessarily of a generalised nature and specific advice should be sought in relation to any particular situation. Further information and assistance in relation to this article can be gained by contacting commercial lawyer Daniel Cowan.