John Grindrod: In the names of Winget and Parson, what’s going on here?

First Posted: 1/13/2014

Neil Winget, the recently retired president of the Better Business Bureau, and the current torch carrier to protect our consumer affairs, his replacement, Cheryl Parson, have done most of the heavy lifting when it comes to keeping us in the know, especially through their twice-monthly Sunday columns in the business section.

Nonetheless, I do feel a duty to tell you about a recent increase on my home computer of what I’ll call Internet chicanery. After all, one of our New Year’s resolutions that we don’t want to fall by the wayside is our vow to eschew clicking on something and introducing some sort of virus into our PC’s.

As one of the older folks who once felt technology had just about eclipsed itself with the TV remote control, I’ve acclimated myself to computers pretty well. While I don’t see computers as the enemy I once did, I still remain leery as to their potential to wreak havoc in my life.

When it comes to Internet scams, many of you will, no doubt, recall several years ago the periodic unsolicited e-mails telling of multimillionaires from foreign countries that were dying and wanted to transfer $20 million or so to the United States to be used to help worthy charities. If you would be so kind as to send your bank account number for a short-term deposit before it could go to help the needy, you could keep a couple million for yourself for the trouble along with, of course, the home version of the game, “So, You Think You’re Not a Sucker.”

Let’s not forget the old “you-won-the-lottery” scam, where, in order to collect, you needed to send a check for, oh, let’s call it an interstate commerce gift tax. Never mind the fact that you never entered any lottery. Someone took care of that trivial detail for you, right?

When it comes to such ruses, I think they were pretty easy to figure out, since the intentions of separating us from our hard-earned Benjamins were pretty transparent. Lately, I’ve been getting dozens of new e-mails that perplex me a bit, not because they’re more difficult to recognize but because they seem simply to be an attempt to introduce some sort of virus. Greed, I get; electronic vandalism, not really.

The first e-mail I’ll tell you about supposedly comes from FedEx, telling me an attempt was made to deliver a parcel to my house. Since I wasn’t home, I’m supposed to click on an icon for the location of a branch where I can pick up the package. Also, there’s a name of a supposed FedEx manager.

Each time I receive one of these after deleting the previous one without clicking anything, the name of the manager changes. In a shaky economy, who’d have ever thought such a good job would change hands so often? Conspicuously absent in these transmissions is the FedEx 800 number because, of course, the bad guys certainly don’t want anyone calling that!

Just for kicks, I found the 800 number on the FedEx website, made a call and, as I expected, was told that the company absolutely never sends e-mails to alert anyone of an unsuccessful delivery.

Yet another I’m getting with regularity is supposedly from another global carrier, DHL, from a pack station, telling me of another delivery — my, people out there are trying to send me all sorts of surprises! — and urging me to click an icon for shipping information. Again, of course, there’s no 800 number. I found the number and called, and this time, I didn’t even get far enough to talk to a person. Instead, I was greeted by a recorded message that told me of fraudulent e-mails that have been circulating involving fictitious DHL shipments.

A third one I find really amusing comes supposedly from American Airlines, with a notification that my online plane ticket is ready, and I should click a certain icon to print it. The last one was to Omaha. The hilarity to me is that there is someone out there who either thinks I’m so addled that I forgot I wanted to go to Omaha or so naïve that I’ll believe I’m the recipient of a foul up from AA and actually have this wonderful opportunity to, say, drop in on Warren Buffett!

Finally, the most recent scam e-mail I received was one where my auto rates have been lowered and urging me to click on a certain icon for my new rate. Hmm, I don’t think I need to bother my insurance pal Kenny Paige for that one.

Recently, I spoke with Mike O’Connor, my go-to computer guy and top co-dog (along with his infinitely better half, Barb) at WCOIL here in Lima about this recent wave of fraudulent e-mails.

“The old scams of someone wishing to transfer money to your bank account or telling you that you won some sort of lottery have been replaced by these new ones about parcel deliveries and such, but the game has always remained the same, which is to try to gain access to your personal information by introducing a virus into your computer,” he said. “The bottom line is that if you don’t know the e-mail sender, delete, delete, delete.”

The moral of this tale, as my buddy Mike reinforced, has always been the same, from before Neil Winget and on to some point in the future when Cheryl Parson passes her torch: If things like surprise parcels and free airline tickets to Omaha sound too good to be true, they are!

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