Protect yourself against the rising tide of tech-based scams

The 19th-century showman P.T. Barnum reportedly said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

In fact, the notion predates Barnum — and it is just as applicable in the modern era.

Con artists take advantage of our default desire to trust. They know how to manipulate people into doing something that under normal circumstances, they should be wary of.

It was once the travelling “doctor” selling cure-all medicine. Now it’s the infamous Nigerian prince scam or a once-in-a-lifetime real estate investment.

Most of us don’t fall for these scams, but some still do. It only takes a few people to respond to the thousands of lines cast to make it worth the effort for the con artist.

Today’s scams almost seem dull compared to the creative ones of yesteryear, but that’s not because today’s scammers aren’t as smart. They just know it’s a numbers game.

Snake oil salesmen, travelling between small towns by horse-drawn cart, only had access to a few hundred people a month. The conversion rate had to be great to draw a decent income.

In the modern era, you can legally buy an email list for $150 to $350 per thousand people — and there are less expensive ways to get email lists illegally.

But some modern scams are still creative. I recently received an email in which the sender claimed they had hacked my email address, then infected my phone, computer, tablet and other electronic devices connected to the internet.

The sender claimed that the fact they’d emailed me from my own email address was proof. They included my email password to further cement their claims.

They claimed they had downloaded all the contacts from my phone. They claimed they had monitored my internet access and captured pornographic images of me.

“We will send these images to everyone on your contact list in 72 hours if you do not send us $800 in crypto currency to this account,” they threatened.

The password included was a password I use on low-security websites. It was not my email password. An average programmer could build a spam-generating email tool in an afternoon and fill out the email/password pairs from a hack list from some low-security site.

What can be done about this con?

The government has a variety of regulations to safeguard us and I’m not sure more laws will have an impact. We don’t seem to increase catch-and-conviction rates for the perpetrators, in great part because it’s difficult to prosecute someone in a foreign nation.

In fact, the best solution is personal: we must take precautions, being careful who we trust and how we use technology.

Here’s the oft-repeated basic list of precautions:

I’ve heard it said that you should have a different password for every login. That would be more secure, but it isn’t practical for most people. I’d suggest you have several passwords that you use regularly, including a high-security one that you only use on your computer or email, and one that you use on all other sites that you consider of significant risk.

Then if a password is compromised, it will only affect one group of accounts.

Just like we change the batteries in our smoke detectors annually, so should we change all our passwords.

If you use a Wi-Fi router that you bought at a retail outlet, change the default password.

Install virus protection on your computer, tablet and phone.

If you receive an email or text from someone you don’t know (or even someone you know who you weren’t expecting to hear from), don’t click on any links in the message.

Every con is based on the gullibility of the victim, regardless of the technology being used. When something comes your way, stop and think: How likely is this to be true?

Being cautious could save you thousands of dollars and a big headache.

Eamonn Brosnan is a research associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Just Posted

Search on for missing man after tubing fun takes tragic turn on Sylvan lake

SYLVAN LAKE, Alta. — A young man is missing and presumed drowned… Continue reading

Ponoka RCMP lay charges following aggravated assault

The RCMP have arrested and laid charges against a man following an… Continue reading

Calgary police justified in shootout with suspect who killed himself in garage

CALGARY — A police watchdog has found that reasonable force was used… Continue reading

Military faces calls to train soldiers to identify neo-Nazis, hate-group members

OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces is facing calls to drop what… Continue reading

Canada, First Nations create new park reserve

LUTSEL K’E, N.W.T. — A deal on a vast new national park… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Thursday The Red Deer and District Garden Club hosts its annual Flower… Continue reading

Rebels release training camp schedule

The Red Deer Rebels are set to get started in their pursuit… Continue reading

Kodak Black expected to plead guilty in federal weapons case

MIAMI — Rapper Kodak Black is expected to plead guilty to federal… Continue reading

Federal partnership aims to increase affordable housing across Canada

VANCOUVER — The federal government is investing in what it calls an… Continue reading

CIBC hikes dividend as it reports third-quarter profit rise, beating estimates

TORONTO — The Canadian Imperial Bank Of Commerce hiked its dividend and… Continue reading

Statistics Canada reports wholesale sales up 0.6 per cent in June

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says wholesale sales climbed 0.6 per cent to… Continue reading

Huawei executive’s defence team alleges Canadians were ‘agents’ of the FBI

VANCOUVER — A defence team for a Chinese telecom executive is alleging… Continue reading

U.S. secretary of state visits Ottawa in advance of G7 meeting in France

OTTAWA — Security around Parliament Hill has been tightened in anticipation of… Continue reading

Most Read