The Better Business Bureau is warning parents to be on the lookout for a new email scam disguised as a warning about child predators in their area.
According to the BBB, parents have reported receiving an email with the alarming subject line "Alert: There is a Child-Predator Living Near You!" The email goes on to say that, based on your ZIP code, a registered child sex offender has "just moved into your area."
Fortunately, the email's claims are untrue. But parents duped by the email's scare tactics may themselves become victimized by malicious software designed to steal sensitive financial and personal information from their computers.
How the Scam Works
The email provides a link for those concerned by the email's dire warnings to "learn more about this predator alert." And clicking the link provided does lead to a website for "Kids Live Safe," a service that provides reports on sex offenders.
But the emails aren't actually affiliated with "Kids Live Safe." Rather, the link seems to be way to make the scam look more legitimate. In addition to leading to the Kids Live Safe website, clicking on the link also may be enough to allow malware to infect your machine, the BBB warns. This malware will then search your computer for passwords, credit card numbers, and other information that could be used by scammers for identity theft.
How to Spot the Scam
The BBB recommends several ways that consumers can spot this scam and others like it before it's too late. These include:
- Watch for typos and bad grammar. Scammers are good at making emails look legitimate, with logos and design, but are typically less adept at writing clearly. Look for misspellings, poor grammar, and strange phrasing such as the scam emails use of the term "local area zipcode."
- If you don't remember signing up for a service, you probably didn't. Scam emails are often disguised as notifications from a service or retailer. But if you don't remember ever having signed up for a particular service or making a purchase from a website, chances are you didn't and the email is a scam.
- Look for strange email addresses, URLs. Here's another red flag: An email that appears to be from a particular service or business but is sent from an unrelated email address. Also, always be sure to hover your mouse over links in an email to see where they actually lead. A link might say it's going one place, but may take you somewhere different when you click on it.
To learn more about identity theft, email privacy, and online safety, check out FindLaw's section on Online Scams.
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