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All-new cyber scams to rip you off

March 8, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Investigators who track Internet crime say scam artists are taking full advantage of this economy, targeting both businesses and individuals more intensely than ever. If you think you've seen everything, guess again; there are some new ways these scammers are trying to rip you off.Usually we hear about an increase in scams after a tragedy like wildfires, earthquakes and floods. But this time the tragedy is our economy, and scammers are definitely trying to take advantage of you and everybody else.

Panos Anastassiadis is an executive for an Internet security firm, and that's why he knew better than to open an e-mail he received recently that looked suspicious. It's a good thing, since the message would have allowed criminals access to his computer. It's just one of many new cyber scams the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), is hearing about these days.

The downturn in the economy is causing an upswing in scams.

"We receive approximately 22,000 consumer complaints per month," said FBI agent Charles Pavelites.

In this recession, the FBI says the bad guys have graduated from e-mails to sending text messages via cell phones.

"You get a text message, they can have the same things that e-mails have on them," said Pavelites. "They can have a virus on them, they can have malware on them that somehow get information off your cell phone on them, and some people can now use their cell phone to do banking."

And these days, those most in need are the biggest target.

"We see mortgage fraud and debt elimination schemes, work at home [schemes]," said Pavelites.

So what can you do? Experts suggest you treat each e-mail, text message and phone call with caution. Call the bank or business yourself before giving out any personal info and use the number you have on file, not the number on Caller ID.

Only read text messages and e-mails you expect to receive, especially if there's an attachment.

"In most places, you lock the door behind you when you come in," said Pavelites. "Do the same with places on the Internet. Update your virus ware, spam filters; update your spyware. If in doubt, don't click."

Another scam deals with recurring charges on your bank account. The fraudsters, once they have access, may steal amounts you're used to seeing withdrawn for annual fees, only they'll withdraw the money more than once.

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