If it is too good to be true ...

A common ploy used by email spammers, this fraudulent letter was sent by airmail from England.

Coming home after meeting fellow WBVO columnist RJ Johnson (he pens the “Family Observations” column) over caffeine-infused geek talk, I made a beeline to my mailbox in front of the house as I was expecting a book for the long Thanksgiving weekend starting the following day.

Flipping through the stack of letters, I noticed an airmail addressed to me. It was posted through “Royal Mail” which I guessed was England’s equivalent of our United States Postal Service but who did I know in the UK? As they say, “curiosity killed the cat” and this cat, yours truly, couldn’t wait to find out ...

Although there are many studies on the actual number of spam emails, i.e. unsolicited bulk emails that fill your mailbox in the digital world, most studies agree that upwards of 75 percent of all the emails traversing the internet at any given time are spam emails!

As a self-proclaimed geek, a maestro living at the convergence of the real and digital worlds, I’ve seen them all. Spam emails, just like the unsolicited bulk mailings that clog our mailboxes in the real world, can be anything from benign to malignant; the latter may contain computer trickeries that can result in unsolicited malware infections slowing down your computer, stealing your information or even rendering your computer inoperable until ransom payment is made.

Although scammers operated their fraudulent activities way before the dawn of the internet using the postal service and telephones, internet has made it that much easier to reach potential victims – in terms of both cost and the sheer number of victims they can reach simultaneously.

Given the above misuse of the internet, imagine my surprise when I opened the airmail only to find the now-familiar scam email message on real paper. A scammer actually paid for an airmail stamp to get this letter to me!

Although there are various iterations of this scam, the basic premise is that you are the next-of-kin and the sole heir to a fortune; they just need you to write back and it’s all yours!

Most of us who use email know that this is a scam. We don’t open these emails and chances are great that we don’t even see them come into our inbox as most email systems send them directly to the spam/junk folder.

However if you know friends or family members who are not using email or are novices to the digital world, it may be beneficial to warn them of a new type of scam that crossed over into the real world. 

As one of the most disruptive innovations of the 20th century, internet brought, and continues to bring, benefits. Yet application of common sense such as “if it is too good to be true, it probably is” goes a long way in both worlds!

Tak Sato

Business and technology strategist/consultant with 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

As founder of geek with a heart consulting, "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps Individuals, Seniors, Families, Small Businesses, and Non-Profits utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 6, Issue 25, Posted 9:34 AM, 12.09.2014