If you use computers (or tablets / cell phones) you probably connect to the internet. You can still be targeted without going on-line - telephone calls from "Microsoft" are a common example. But many Kiwis lose millions of dollars each year (and the actual figure is higher because of under-reporting).


A recent article highlighted some issues we all face. Hopefully, you're more astute than me - but "they" are after you - or more specifically your money. If you use the internet (and you wouldn't be reading this if you didn't), it pays to know what traps lurk out there waiting for the smallest opportunity.


There's no point listing the many scams - they change regularly.  If this irks you as much as it does me you might be interested in a Kiwi site offering a small way to waste some of their time and effort. It has the advantage of being totally automated, so getting scammers wasting time against a computer is appealing. I was amazed to see how many scammers are organised much like a business.


When I get a message (or an invitation to click on a website) my first reaction is: Do I know / trust this person / organisation? And if I do, does this message sound like them? I've been surprised at how realistic some messages look.


A client often talks about PEBKAC errors: Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair. He has a new one, creating SEBKAC users: Security Exists Between Keyboard And Chair. He runs multiple systems without protection of any kind - just very carefully. Of course, he's not only bright - he also works in the "cloud" industry.


Another client pointed out what has been till recently a simple test to ascertain whether a message is bona fide is to move (not click) your mouse over any hyper-link in the suspect email. Most if not all email apps will then pop up a window citing the full URL address for that link. If it looks quite different to what you might expect (e.g. not bank.co.nz  but rather something weird like luckylast.ru). Some of those weird URLs can be bona fide because of the services large companies like banks use to send emails and perform other tasks, so this approach isn't foolproof. But it supplies some helpful additional info without jeopardising your system provided you don't click on the link!


I've read that there are tricks that can get around that these days. An email I got from my bank seemed wrong. I checked every link - and every other thing I could think of. I was almost sure it was a scam - but couldn't see it anywhere. The bank confirmed they hadn't sent it. It's the only one so far where the address trick didn't work. It didn't ask me to click on any links - I still can't figure out what it did - except heighten my sense of alert.

Be safe out there.