We all receive solicitation links by email every day and they take many forms. The most common are of course the phishing emails pretending to be from your bank claiming that your details are out of date or the tax authority informing you of a refund. Then there are the (in)famous 419 scams where some attorney or the wife of a recently deceased politician wants to give you a few million dollars since you’re a long lost heir or you are their only hope of saving the money from someone with intentions of malice. The irony.
The phishing scams are very simple and they look authentic enough at first glance. The bank logo and the threat of being cut off from your money if you don’t update your details easily convinces the ignorant or digitally unprepared to click the link and enter usernames, passwords and possibly even a mobile number. That is basically handing the keys to your vault to a criminal and saying go help yourself. Loot away.
The promise of a tax refund is even more attractive and so tempting to click the link to get the few thousand waiting for you to “authorise” it. And the amounts look real since they’re never round figures and more like 2943.23 – it looks like some diligent administrator calculated it. Never click the link.
Is it real?
That is the simplest question to ask when confronted with this. The easiest way to tell is simply hover your cursor over the link and see what pops up in the status bar or tooltip. If the email purports to be from your bank but the actual link is crimcourt.com/status/joesdesktop/downloads/action.php stay clear. Your bank doesn’t use crimcourt.com as a web address. Of course, this is just an example link so use common sense.
A lot has been written about 419 scams but in simple terms their trickery stands on the offers of millions. But once you start interacting the scammers behind it will try to convince you that you have to pay them an admin fee to have the money released. And once they have the first payment they have many more ways of sucking money from you. Never click the link or reply to the email.
Gauging your interest
There is also another, perhaps less sinister but still underhanded, solicitation email. That from a domain administrator offering you a domain similar to one you already own. I’m not referring to the ones from (mostly) Asia offering you a .cn domain because someone is else is trying to register it. No, these are for top level domains (TLDs) like a .com similar to one you have, offered for about four times or so of the original registration value on a bidding basis. This is a domain sniper who looks through domains about to expire and then hunts for the same domain name in other domain suffixes and offers them to the owners. Some would suggest it’s a legitimate business model but I think it’s predatory. They also post a link in the email where you can see more about the offer and bid for the domain. That link contains some additional unique identifying characters associated with the domain in question and once you click it you register your interest and they now know that if the grab the domain when it expires they can possibly have buyer.
Simple rule, never click any solicitation email and call your web or tech consultant for help.