First off, let me state that 99% of accounts that have been hacked are not maliciously trying to do you harm. I can’t tell you how many perfectly harmless accounts get hacked by hackers just for the fun of it, and can then spend hours going through the account’s details and seeing what is available. However, there is the 1% that are a clear and present danger to your online security.
This danger can come in the form of what is commonly referred to as a “Nigerian Letter Scam”. In short, this scam involves the sender of the email sending one or more emails to a user of a popular online service with the intention of stealing their personal details. The method varies slightly, but the concept is the same. You might find the original email claiming to be from a bank or a trusted employee of a well known company. In each case, the scammer will want the user to reply with their account details, which can then be used to steal funds from the account or even to commit fraud.
When I first started dealing with email scams, the second kind was involved. These were the ones that tried to trick you into giving out information by pretending to be someone trustworthy. The Nigerian scammer will send you an email (or sometimes one will pretend to be from your bank or bank’s administrator) telling you that you need to verify some information, such as the user name and password. The problem with these emails is that they look very genuine, and can be very difficult to spot. You can’t trust these people and you should not trust the information they are asking you for. If you are asked to give out your personal information, why would you want to do that? You could even get fooled yourself, and once you have given out your details you will find that nothing happens. This is nobody’s fault, but is due to the fact that these emails are very convincing, and it is very hard to deny when you have seen them.
Now that you know what these emails are about, you probably want to know how to tell if you have seen one before. Before you do anything, you need to check out the link or emails using the following information:
1. If you see any words before “Dear PayPal Customer”, “Dear username123”, or “Dear system administrator”, it is suspicious. Do not click on the link as it knows you are a scammer.
2. Whenever you receive a “Dear eBay Customer”, do not click on the link, instead, open up your browser and manually type in the eBay URL into your browser. When you get to the eBay site, click the down button (away from the “Sign In” button) and then click “account info” from the menu that appears. You should have a pop up message saying that you have left your eBay account.
3. Don’t reply to the email – This is because the email is made to look like it is from the actual company, and is asking you to confirm your details or your account has been suspended. In reality, this is just an attempt by the scammer to gain more information from you, and represents only a first step in what will be a long and difficult recovery process. Any email asking for you to reveal your personal details is fraudulent. If you have received one of these emails, visit the eBay site and click on the “forgot your ID” link. This will give you the opportunity to select the country where your eBay account is suspended. From then on, you will be able to click on US or EU to have it restored.