Understanding the Danger
Now that you have been in the Internet Jungle for a while searching for work-at-home opportunities and ventured far enough into the depths to have encountered and successfully survived attacks from lions, tigers, bears, and sneaky snakes, the next thing you have to worry about are the Internet software scams sold by cannibals who will eat you alive. (OMG!)
The worst part about Cannibals is that they look, speak and act just like any other normal Internet business person. They are on the lookout for innocent, hardworking newbies who simply want to find a way to build a home-based business on the Internet.
He (or she) won’t be carrying a spear, a poison dart gun, and will have no distinguishing marks that will warn you of the danger. The only thing the Cannibal will be carrying…are you ready for this… is software! That’s right, I said…software. The Internet software scams are everywhere masterfully disguised as a legitimate product.
One of the Cannibals Favorite Weapons
Totally Useless Software (T.U.S.)
Newbies on the Internet who want to work at home are extremely appealing to the Cannibals because they are much easier marks than those who have been living in the Internet jungle for a while – and have seen almost everything. They know that it is unlikely that the Newbies will ask the right questions (or any questions for that matter) before being convinced that the software offering is the answer to their prayers. And, they will buy immediately because it is only available “at this price” for the next 24 hours.
If you are not careful, you will end up in the same pit I was in – trapped by my desire to find the silver bullet (software program) that would make me instantly successful. They kept promising me it would happen, and I believed them. Unfortunately, most Newbies fall into the same trap and become software junkies. It can easily become an addiction.
When a Cannibal promises that a piece of software will lighten your work load, your computer will run faster, create the perfect advertisement, or simplify the marketing process; the Newbie will almost always buy! The Cannibals are very aware of this. In fact….they depend on it.
As a Newbie, the quicker you recognize your addiction and find a way to control it, the better. For as long as it has you in its clutches, you will spend far more money than necessary (or than you can afford), and you will end up with a ton of TUS – Totally Useless Software. (Don’t put yourself in the position of dreading the day when you must finally take the time to delete the hundreds of files and programs that you purchased while under the influence!)
Yes, you will need some software. You can’t work on the Internet without it. Obviously, you need the basics like Microsoft Word and possibly Excel and Adobe Photoshop – or similar programs. You do not need all the bells and whistles to begin and Open Office (which is free) works pretty well in place of Word. Shop around. There are free versions of almost every type of software that you will need. (I will provide more information about free software in a later blog post.)
Don’t spend money you do not need to spend and don’t overload your computer with unnecessary software and extra features that you will probably never use. It is excess baggage, which will drain resources from your computer and slow it down.
Bogus, Stolen, or Legitimate?
In addition to the Cannibals that try to sell you TUS, there are others that will try to sell you pirated software. When you are on a tight budget, bargains are very appealing and deep discounts always get your attention. This is another thing that the Cannibals understand and use against you.
Popular and very useful programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Word are particularly vulnerable. If you see them at incredibly low prices – BEWARE. It is illegal to sell pirated software; but, it is equally illegal to buy pirated software if you have any reason to believe that it is pirated. Prices well-below the market are BIG red flags.
Checklist – Legal or Illegal?
- Check the price of the software on the manufacturer’s Website. If the selling price is way out of line with the manufacturer’s list price, do not go anywhere near it.
- All legitimate software manufacturers and retailers will give you a written warranty. They will also have a very fair refund policy. Cannibals will not offer either one.
- Manufacturers of legitimate software place an embedded code in the software, which is printed on the packaging when you receive the product or it is sent to you via e-mail if sold electronically. It is usually a 30 digit number, which is used to activate the software. It is called the Product Key. It contains information about the software, and provides mechanisms to validate and activate the product, emitting a signed Product License only for the machine that activated the product. If you are instructed to activate the software in any other way – the software is probably stolen or pirated.
- If you see either NFR or OEM on an install disk, it was stolen. NFR means, Not for Resale and is usually stamped on a beta product version. OEM means Original Equipment Manufacturer, which is stamped on software that is included in the purchase of a new computer.
- All legitimate software can be registered. If the seller of the software tells you that it cannot be registered, you can bet that it was stolen. Once again, if you buy software that you know has been stolen, that is a criminal act. Receiving stolen property is a crime in all fifty states and in most civilized countries in the world. Don’t do it!
- Legitimate software suppliers will always provide their names, addresses and telephone numbers. Those selling stolen or pirated software will provide you with names, addresses, and telephone numbers, as well…. but they will be fake; and their email addresses are changed daily…or more frequently.
- We covered SPAM in a previous post, which is unsolicited email sent out in bulk. Legitimate software manufacturers and retailers do not engage in the illegal act of sending SPAM. If you receive a software offer through SPAM mail – delete immediately, even if it is the best price you have ever seen – don’t even think about it.
To sum it all up – if you want to manage a business on the Internet, you will need a certain amount of software – without it, your computer is useless – with it you can be creative and productive. BUT… in the beginning you only need the basics – you do not need all the bells and whistles – don’t become a software junkie.
As I mentioned before you can even get some of the basics for free if you look around. Participate in forums, you will be amazed at all the good tips you will pick up regarding free products; and if you must buy, participants in the forum can help you learn what to buy, where to buy and what to avoid. If you purchase software, purchase it from the manufacturer, or legitimate retailers. Bargain hunting for these products may cost you far more than you will save
Three questions to answer honestly before you purchase any software:
- Do I really need this software? This is often the hardest one to answer because it is easy to confuse want and need. If the software will absolutely help you work faster and make your job a lot easier, then it may be a good choice. But, you must evaluate it carefully. Wishing will not make it so. If it is just going to take up resources on your computer and slow it down without providing any real benefits for you, then it is TUS (Totally Useless Software). Look at the features, if it is bloated with features you will never use, look for a more basic model, possibly an older version.
- Is the asking price in line with the manufacturer’s or legitimate retailers’ asking price? If it is not, it is either bogus or you could be buying stolen goods, which is a crime. (Do I sound like broken record?) Be as wary as you would be with a street vendor in New York City who tries to sell you a Rolex for $29.95. You would know immediately that it was either a knock off, or stolen – neither of which would be a wise purchase.
- Is there a money-back guarantee with a reasonable time limit? Never buy software that does not come with a guarantee that covers both the product and that it will work on your machine.
Pharming and Phishing
If you order software, pay for it, and it never shows up – or you don’t receive download instructions immediately, believe it or not – that is the best of the worst things that can happen to you.
Selling you Totally Useless Software, bogus software, or stolen software is the Cannibals favorite way to gobble you up. If the software is delivered as promised, it may contain malicious codes for the purpose of phishing or pharming. We mentioned this briefly in the last article and want to expand on it a little more so you will be aware of the dangers.
The more you use the Internet, the more vulnerable you become. As you diligently scour the Web for business opportunities or ways to develop your skills in Internet marketing, etc. the Cannibals are watching and waiting. The only thing you can count on is that they will pounce.
Let’s look at two of the Cannibals favorite traps:
Online identity theft. It is an online con game run by tech-savvy con artists (AKA Cannibals). Using a variety of methods, the phisher lures you into providing your personal financial information on a fraudulent web site, also known as spoofed web sites. You may receive an email message instructing you to click on the link to your bank’s website (provided in the email) to confirm your account information.
If you are not alert to this type of phishing expedition, you may simply follow the instructions because the site is a convincing copy of your bank’s authentic web site. If you take the bait and enter your information, the phisher immediately steals it and can use it to clean out your bank accounts or commit other criminal acts tied to identity theft.
Similar to phising but more sophisticated. Even though pharmers also work through emails, there is no attachment to open (many people are now wise to that ploy). Your financial information can be compromised by simply opening the email message.
The Cannibals hijack a legitimate Web Site’s domain name and URL. Then, they send an email message, which they are fairly certain you will open when you recognize the sender. The problem is that the message contains a virus that installs a small software program on your computer. The next time you try to visit the official website, you will be sent to the pharmer’s fake version of the web site, where he can capture your personal financial information that you enter – and once again, he will use it as he pleases.
The newest and worst kind of pharming requires no email at all. You may be attacked without even knowing it. These Cannibals use keystroke loggers that capture account names and passwords, which they can use for future fraudulent transactions.
Being aware of the lurking dangers is the only way to protect yourself against phishers and pharmers. Follow the steps below for protection:
- Check with your bank to see if they have any protective software implemented that will thwart the efforts of these Cannibals.
- Always maintain an effective, up-to-date virus protection and internet security such as Norton AntiVirus™ and Norton Internet Security™, which blocks suspicious Web sites automatically. It doesn’t catch everything, but almost everything; and you can breathe a little easier with this protection .
- Make sure your bowser is up-to-date and security patches are applied.
- Use a trusting, legitimate Internet Service Provider with rigorous security at the ISP level. This is your first line of defense against pharming.
- Check the URL of any site that asks you to provide personal information. Make sure your session begins at the known authentic address of the official site, with no extra characters appended to it.
- Check the certificate, which takes only a few seconds to see if the site you land on is legitimate. For example, on the latest version of Internet Explorer, go to “File” in the main menu and select “Properties.” When the box pops up, click on “Certificates” and check to see if the site carries a secure certificate from its legitimate owner.
- Be suspicious of any email with urgent requests for personal financial information and delete immediately.
- Never use links in an email to get to any web page.
- Never complete forms in email messages that ask for personal financial information.
- Always verify that a Web site is secure when submitting credit card or other sensitive information via the web browser. (This is one reason that I use PayPal as much as possible.)
- Consider installing a web browser tool bar for protection from known phishing fraud web sites.
- Regularly check bank, credit card, and debit card statements to ensure all transactions are legitimate. (At least twice a month)
- Never allow yourself to be pressured into providing sensitive information.
If you suspect that you have been a victim of phishing or pharming, take the following steps:
- Forward the entire original email to the Federal Trade Commission at email@example.com (not sure this helps, but worth a try).
- Forward the email to the “abuse” email address at the company that is being spoofed (e.g. spoof@WellsFargoBank.com )
- Notify the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) of the FBI by filing a complaint on the IFCC’s web site: http://www.ic3.gov/default.
The Internet is a fabulous place, which can enrich your life and your business in so many amazing ways. Don’t be afraid, be prepared. The key is to be informed and alert. Take all the necessary steps to protect yourself and move forward with confidence.
Watch for the next article about the “poisonous plants” that you must avoid!