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Bank of America Phishing Email

Check out this new Bank of America Phishing Email. Beware of this one!

The Top 12 Internet Scams of the 2000s

Throughout human history, one eternal truth has emerged: where there are hordes of people, there will be scams. Rarely has this been so evident than on the Internet, which offers special advantages (namely lack of face to face contact) to scammers that no other medium can. When the only barrier between your bank account and an unscrupulous con man is a glass monitor or laptop screen, it’s no wonder Internet scams have become one of the largest sources of crime in the young 21st century. Today we will look back on 12 of the top Internet scams of the 2000’s and what makes them so attractive to their targets.

Nigerian 401 Scams

One of the most talked about Internet scams of all is the Nigerian money scam, also known as the Nigerian 401 scam for the part of Nigeria’s penal code that prohibits the practice. Essentially, these scams are carried out in the following manner: you (the victim) receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be an exiled dignitary, perhaps a prince or queen who was forced to leave their home country due to political turmoil. But there’s hope! With your assistance and bank account information, this ex-big shot can loot a fortune (anywhere from one to one hundred million dollars) out of his former country and split it with you for your troubles. Amazingly, one website estimates that enough people have fallen for this scam that a total of $32 billion was lost through 2007.

Impostor Bank Websites

Plenty of people were uncomfortable with the idea of conducting their bank affairs online at first, and it looks like some of those fears were well-founded. Using a tactic known as “phishing”, some nefarious scammers actually go to the trouble of creating impostor websites that appear to belong to known banks like Wachovia and Bank of America. Victims are lured to the imposter page via e-mails that are carefully constructed to seem like the actual bank sent them, typically containing messages like “the bank has recently undergone a security audit and needs you to confirm your username and password.” Once you input this information at the impostor site, the scammer has everything necessary to empty your bank account into his own.

PayPal Hoaxes

The online payment service PayPal has exploded in popularity as Internet commerce became the norm. Most online merchants and all of eBay accept PayPal, and many people now have their bank accounts hooked up to the service’s database. Unfortunately, this has made PayPal’s millions of users into attractive targets for con artists. In much the same manner as bank scams, the scammer sends you an e-mail that looks and feels like it came from PayPal itself. Most commonly, this e-mail states that you are required to input your username and password for a “routine security check” or a similar reason. Those who take the bait soon find that their entire PayPal balance has been siphoned away. And while many assume the authorities (or PayPal itself) have rock-solid procedures for catching the perpetrators, it is actually quite rare for them – or the lost money – to be recovered.

Work From Home

A slightly different Internet scam is the “work from home” hoax. This scam permeates the Internet under countless guises, including mailing envelopes from your desk, easy money on eBay, and affiliate marketing (which is viable but far more difficult than advertised.) The usual procedure involves the victim being pitched on the wonderful 9-5 escaping opportunity they are about to receive. At this point the victim is asked to pay a fee for entrance into the “program” or for a “course” to be shipped to their doorstep. A popular version of this currently making the rounds is the “I get paid to post links on Google” pitch, which is a grossly oversimplified way of saying that you can profit by running Google AdSense ads on a webpage. Virtually none of these programs even come close to the results they promise, but the sale and purchase of them continues unabated.

Postal Forwarding/Reshipping

It’s bad enough when a scam endangers one’s bank account, but when it potentially endangers your freedom, insult is quickly added to injury. Such is the case with postal forwarding and reshipping scams. Here’s how it usually works. You (the victim) see an ad online from someone seeking a “correspondence manager.” Answering the ad produces a story from this person about how they run an offshore corporation that needs someone in the U.S. to take possession of goods sent to them and reship these items elsewhere. Victims may also be asked to accept wire transfers into their bank accounts. What actually occurs is that these people order merchandise online using stolen credit cards and ship the goods through you to distort the money trail of who did what. Whatever money you make from this scam is overshadowed by the very real possibility of the FBI banging down your door during the investigation.

Free XBox, iPod, etc.

Driving citizens and authorities crazy since about 2006 have been the still-prevalent “Free Xbox” scams. The usual pattern here involves a banner ad exclaiming that you have been selected as the winner of a free XBox, iPod, or other desirable consumer good. Clicking the ad takes you to a webpage restating the same promise but also requesting your debit card information so that the benevolent website can cover its shipping charges. By this point you should begin to see the writing on the wall: the promised item never arrives, random charges begin appearing on your bank statement, and “the only thing that gets shipped and handled is your identity.”

Auction Frauds


According to the FBI, auction fraud scams accounted for more than 70,000 complaints last year – more than one in four. There number and variety of auction scams is limited only by imagination, but common variants include misleading product descriptions that don’t match what you receive, passing off counterfeit versions of designer clothing, or simply not receiving anything after paying the winning bid. Also widespread are what is known as “second chance scams”, where the loser of an auction is given the opportunity to buy the item at a reduced price by giving the seller his bank account information for a “wire transfer.” Needless to say, the only transfer that takes place is the one shoveling the money in your account into theirs.


While not as common today as, say, back in 2003-2005, spyware is still a major source of web-based fraud. A spyware program generally foists its way onto your computer through security holes or as a silent bundle with something you wanted to download, such as a screensaver. Once on your computer, the spyware proceeds to sponge off its resources to serve its own needs, such as by displaying advertisements or harvesting your credit card numbers as you shop or bank online. Insidious types of spyware have included Gator, Xupiter, LOP.com and CoolWebSearch, each of which is discussed in painful detail on SpywareInfoForum.com.

Advanced Fees For “Guaranteed” Loans or Credit Cards

At this point we should attach a warning: anything or anyone asking you to pay a fee in advance is setting you up to get hosed. The latest in a long line of scams to follow this format is charging you advance fees for “guaranteed” loans or credit cards. To hook you, a professional-looking website claiming to represent Visa or MasterCard promises that a pre-approved credit card is waiting for you if only you’ll pay a fee to “cover the paperwork” or a similarly official-sounding purpose. As About.com points out, “if only one in every thousand people fall for this scam, the scammers still win several hundred dollars. Alas, far too many victims, pressured by financial problems, willingly step into this con man’s trap.”

Lottery Scams

Online lottery scams are particularly easy to put over on people, given the widespread popularity of offline lottery tickets and prizes. Very simply, a scam artist will send an e-mail (or display a banner advertisement) stating that you have won a lottery – perhaps with a prize in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. This is a fantasy many people are desperate to believe and so it requires very little coaxing to have them key in their bank account information to take possession of the windfall they’ve been chasing all their lives. Of course, once this information resides with the scammer, anything from bogus charges to full-fledged emptying of the victim’s bank account to identity theft ensues.

Disaster Relief Scams

Most of us are horrified and sympathetic when natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina devastate a region. Naturally, many are eager to offer whatever help or assistance they can to the victims, including financial support. Sadly, the scammers of the world have seized upon this as yet another opportunity to channel our good intentions into a windfall for themselves. Fake websites and e-mails are now routinely sent around whenever disaster strikes, tugging at the heart strings of everyday people to send whatever they can. Naturally, all money “donated” through these websites goes straight into the pockets of a con artist, never to play even the tiniest role in disaster relief.

Travel Scams

Warm weather brings spring cleaning, new love, and now, scams! Capitalizing on everyone’s desire to vacation in beautiful foreign destinations, perpetrators of this scheme construct websites that promise to deliver you discounted air or hotel fares to the destination of your choice. Usually the victim is promised an extremely desirable rate that expires tonight, leading you to book the unbeatable “deal” right away. What you don’t realize is that “tonight” is simply any night that you visit these websites – the date on the screen is controlled by a piece of JavaScript that automatically designates today’s date as the “last day” of the sale. Furthermore, the discounted rate you receive often comes with strings attached. For instance, a rock bottom air fare might be accompanied by a hotel stay that costs several times what you would get elsewhere.

How tech is changing banks

Deposit checks with your iPhone camera? Banks as cyber cafes? Tech makes banking fun

 It wasn’t long ago that bank customers judged the quality of their local financial institutions by the sturdiness of their columns and vault doors. That idea is a throwback to an era when money was physical, and so was security. 

Now, money is just data. And banks — especially small banks — are evolving rapidly to reflect that new reality. 

No, I’m not talking about garden-variety mobile banking applications. Simple apps that let you check bank balances, transfer money and find branch locations already feel old and stale. I’m talking about trends that free you from ever having to visit bank branch offices again — and trends that make you want to visit.

Breaking the branch habit

The only remaining reason for many of us to visit bank branch offices, wait in line and interact with a teller is to deposit checks. That’s about to change. 

The United Services Automobile Association, a financial services company for members of the U.S. military and veterans, plans to launch a free iPhone app that lets you deposit checks via your iPhone camera. The service will be called USAA Deposit@Mobile. To make a deposit, you use the app to log onto your account, enter the amount of the check, snap a picture of the front and back of the check, then touch the “Send” button. The bank sends a confirmation. Here’s a video demo.

This is such a compelling service that I’m thinking about joining the Army to qualify. 

Of course, you can always find an ATM and deposit your checks in there. But that can give you a creepy feeling. How do you know the bank won’t later tell you they never got your check? 

Bank of America has installed about 12,800 new ATMs that print receipts that show scans of the checks you deposit. This is nice, because it gives customers proof that checks were in fact deposited. 

Soon, you won’t need checks at all. You’ll be able to use your cell phone as a debit card, and also to receive money from other people’s cell phones (it’s best to get their permission first). A huge number of companies are working on technology and systems to offer this service. Even Nokia wants to get in on the mobile money racket. The company has registered the trademark “Nokia Money.” They intend to launch a service, apparently, that lets you transfer money from your cell phone to either another cell phone or to a store checkout counter. In March, Nokia invested $70 million in a company called Obopay, which enables secure mobile electronic money transfers.

It’s likely that all cell phones in the future will enable this kind of functionality. When that happens, you can leave your entire wallet at home and use your phone instead of cash and credit cards. 

The future of mobile money has barely begun, and already it’s changing how banks offer their services. Bank of America blames its closure of more than 600 branches on the use of the Internet and mobile phones for banking. 
Innovative bank branches. Oxymoron? 

While BofA is shutting down branches because nobody wants to go there, other banks are making branch offices places you want to visit.
Oregon-based Umpqua Bank has 151 branches that double as offices for digital nomads, including Internet cafes and conference rooms. They’ve installed a giant multi-screen interactive video display called the Discover Wall. PC stations let customers hold videoconferences with bank financial advisers. Here’s the bank’s breathtaking vision for the future of cell phone-centric banking.

The concept is vaguely similar to the ING Direct Cafe, which isn’t a bank branch, but an Internet cafe offering PC terminals where you can do online banking or just surf the Internet for free. You can find an ING Direct Cafe in eight US locations. (Best of all, they serve Peet’s Coffee & Tea – the richest kind.) 

These banks are doing something truly interesting: They’re taking advantage of their locations and real estate to offer services people can use. Pushing money around is trivial and increasingly branch-independent. But we can always use some of these services (not to mention free coffee). 
The future of mobile banking

The biggest hurdle to widespread adoption of mobile banking, of course, is consumer concern about security. Financial services firm KPMG says two-thirds of Americans aren’t “comfortable” using cell phones for financial transactions. (Of course, everyone is comfortable with letting a restaurant waiter take physical possession of their credit card for 10 minutes.)

But that’s mainly an age thing. Young people aren’t so timid. The use of mobile banking has tripled in the past year among young adults in the U.S. Some 21% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 are doing banking via cell phone, according to a survey by Mercatus LLC. 

Research firm TowerGroup says 10 million people now do mobile banking, but that the number will rise to 53 million over the next four years. 

If you know where to look, there is incredible innovation happening in the banking space, especially in how customers interact with banks — and their money. 

Now if only the economy would cooperate, there might actually be some money to move around and the whole experience of banking just might become something interesting and enjoyable.