WASHINGTON (6/13/13)–The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has seen an increase in cyber criminals who use online photo-sharing programs to perpetrate scams and harm victims’ computers.
As an example, the bureau cited scammers who advertise vehicles online but will not provide photos in the advertisement. The ad promises to send photos on request, but often the photo is a single file sent as an e-mail attachment, and sometimes the victim receives a link to an online photo gallery.
The photos often contain malicious software that infects the victim’s computer, directing the recipient to fake websites that look nearly identical to the real site where the original advertisement appeared. The cyber criminals run all aspects of these fake websites, including “tech support” or “live chat support,” and any “recommended” escrow services. After the victim agrees to purchase the item and makes the payment, the criminals stop responding to correspondence. The victims never receive any merchandise.
The FBI urges consumers to protect themselves when shopping online. The agency offered a list of safety tips:
- Users should be cautious if they lose an auction and the seller makes contact later, claiming the original bidder fell through.
- Make sure websites are secure and authenticated before purchasing an item online. Use only well-known escrow services.
- Research to determine if a car dealership is real and how long it has been in business.
- Be wary if the price for the item is severely undervalued; if it is, the item is likely fraudulent.
- Scan files before downloading them.
- Keep computer software, including the operating system, updated with the latest patches.
- Ensure anti-virus software and firewalls are current; they can help prevent malware infections.