Child predator email scam targets parents

Online Staff Report

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning everyone, but especially parents, to be on the lookout for an email scam that pretends to be a “community safety” alert. The email is a hoax being sent by identity thieves and is designed to look like an alert to parents about a child predator living in the area.

The subject line of the email states: “Alert: A child-predator just moved into your neighborhood. Alert #123107756.” The email claims to be a notification that is automatically generated and is being sent based on your computer’s IP address as well as your ZIP code. Included in the message is a link to click that will provide the recipient with more information about the predator.

When the link is clicked, that’s when the trouble begins. You will be redirected through several sites to land on a website that sells localized reports on sex offenders.

The ID thieves are using legitimate businesses as a way to lend credibility to their email and distract from the actual scam,” said Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the BBB. “The first click in the email is enough to infect your computer with malware that will attempt to search for stored information, such as user names, passwords and credit card numbers.”

A general rule of thumb is to never click on links in unsolicited emails. If you want more information, it’s better to use your browser and search yourself.

Following are tips on how to spot an email scam:

Check out the “From” field: Scammers can mask email addresses, making them appear to come from legitimate sources. Look out for email addresses that don’t match the brand used in the email message.

Typos and grammar — Brand logos and email formats can easily be copied, but bad grammar and poor writing typically indicate that the message is a scam.

Check URLs — Hover over URLs to determine their real destination. Usually, the hyperlink text will say one thing and the link will point somewhere else.

Personalized emails — Scams often pretend to be personalized for you, but they are actually blast emails. If you never signed up for custom email alerts, you shouldn’t be receiving them.

For more tips on scams, visit www.bbb.org.

Posted Jan. 22, 2015

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