Low-life scammers need a Tasering

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

My desire to have a Taser of my very own is no great secret.

In fact, if you’ve read more than a couple of my columns, odds are you’re up to speed with my Taser-owning dreams. Okay, so they are still frowned upon by the authorities, and some of my workmates develop a nervous twitch when I mention Tasers, but I still want one. Or two (it’s always handy, and sensible, to have a spare).

My Taser obsession isn’t helped by the antics of the low-life scammers out there trying to cash in on last week’s earthquake in Haiti. These poxy individuals are preying on the emotions of those who want to help, with fake emails and websites designed to steal your cash. And by doing that, they aren’t just stealing from you, they are stealing from the victims of this devastating quake, who need all the help they can get.

Symantec Security experts are urging the online community to stay safe by following its best practice tips to ensure the money you give is going to those who need it and not some bottom-feeder who needs a damn good Tasering.

Symantec’s points to remember are:

  • Avoid clicking on suspicious links in email or IM messages because these may be links to spoofed websites. Symantec security experts suggest typing web addresses, such as those from a charitable organisation, directly into the browser rather than clicking on links within messages.
  • Never fill out forms in messages that ask for personal or financial information or passwords. A reputable charitable organisation is unlikely to ask for your personal details via e-mail. When in doubt, contact the organisation in question via an independent, trusted mechanism, such as a verified telephone number, or a known internet address that you type into a new browser window (do not click or cut and paste from a link in the message).

Another heads-up on what to avoid: the Haiti quake being rejigged to become a Nigerian scam. I’ve had more than a dozen emails during the past week claiming to be from relief workers wanting donations but yesterday I got one from a “quake survivor” who needs my help to get a huge stash of money out of the country.

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