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Scams can sound authentic

by Bryan Painter Published: April 4, 2010
Who knew? I certainly wouldn’t have, had I not received those e-mails.

The "Late Engr. Juriaan Kugger” and the "Late Engr. Phillip Randall Saito” both named me as beneficiaries in their wills.

And, Dr. Sammuel Boon-Mee was so kind as to inform me about winning $1 million in an Internet lottery. This is being held for me in a bank in Thailand.

In 21 e-mails gathered during the course of a recent business week, I was a few clicks away from potentially claiming about $282 million. All they needed were my bank details, a copy of my identification and the name of the nearest airport.

Phishing schemes — fraudulent e-mails attempting to get personal information as a doorstep to identity theft or to gain access to a victim’s bank account — have been growing in frequency and sophistication in recent years, said Bob Manista, president of the Better Business Bureau’s central Oklahoma office.

"Some can be pretty clumsy, but others are virtually identical to the kind of business e-mails that one might legitimately see as part of your daily computer use,” he said.

I almost fell for one of those legitimate-looking e-mails a few years ago.

The sender claimed to be from my local bank and everything looked fine except a portion of the e-mail address seemed odd. They needed to verify some of my information. I had an uneasy feeling. So I decided to call my bank first.

They assured me, as I should have known, that they would never contact me by e-mail. I felt ashamed for even considering it, but learned the other day I’m in good company.

In 2009, the head of one of the United State’s domestic agencies was giving a speech in San Francisco. He shared that someone he knew had "received an e-mail purporting to be from his bank.” The e-mail looked legitimate, and like the one I received, was just asking him to verify some information. He started to respond, then gave it a little more thought and decided not to answer the e-mail. He admitted "he barely caught himself in time.”

"He definitely should have known better,” the agency head said. "I can say this with certainty, because it was me.” That was Robert S. Mueller III, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Scams cause damage that can last for years
Before his 19th birthday, Frank W.
by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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