Alan Castle: Don’t make it easy for internet scammers

THIS may be the season of goodwill to all men and, to be politically correct, women, but there seems to be some out in the big wide world trying to split me from my meager earnings.

Mrs C had been busy in the last few days using our debit bank card to pay for a number of essential items for Christmas and presents for relatives and friends.

As a result, the card had been used quite often. It could be sheer coincidence but the next day, into my spam box, dropped the following allegedly from Lloyds TSB. It was written in uppercase and, in three other parts of the letter, in lower.

Straight away an indication that things were not as they should be.

It was headed ‘Account status notification’ and I’ll simply cut and paste what followed.

“We are contacting you to Inform you that the Account (sic) security department identified some unusual activity in your account. In accordance with Lloyds Tsb Bank plc User Agreement and to ensure that your account has not been accessed from fraudulent locations, access to your account has been limited.

“Your account access will remain limited until this issue has been resolved please Click My Account Activity to continue.”

It added: “We take your online safety seriously, which is why we use state of the art notification systems to identify unusual activity and a challenge process to validate your details.”

It concluded: “Thanks for banking with Lloyds Tsb. Customer Finance Department at Lloyds Tsb (sic) & Co, 2011.”

I would have thought that Lloyds, who I do bank with, would have known my name and started off the letter accordingly, but there were so many other mistakes in it, which banks in cases like this, hopefully, would not make. The email went to straight to the recycle bin.

But then came attempt number two.

This again started off with the official BT logo at the top but the give-away was apparent as it was headed ‘Dear Valued Member’. Who on earth speaks like this?

It went on: “This is for your own safety to avoid the closure of your BT internet mail. You will have to verify your account by filling out your  Log-in information below by clicking the reply button. We apologize for any inconvenience that this request may cause.”

It then asked for my user ID, current password, occupation,  date of birth, country of residence.

And finally, it stated: “After receiving the information requested you will be able to continue using your BT internet mail without hitches.

“Please do bear in mind that we reserve the right to close this BT internet account if this request isn’t granted on time.”

It was signed ‘BT internet Customer Care’.

Straight away, I smelled a rat. Any communication I have ever had from BT over the web has come with my name at the start, so I immediately emailed BT.

They replied that it was not a valid email from BT and was sent from a compromised email account.

So you have been warned – if you have any doubts at all about such emails, do not even open them.

Don’t be tempted to respond either – that only confirms you are the account-holder. Give these scammers no information with which to defraud you of your hard-earned cash.

The most simple remedy is to dump such emails into your recycle bin immediately. You can, however, forward the emails to your service provider, which will take action as necessary.

Christmas is a time of joy, but it also brings out the odd opportunist lowlife, like the one who snatched a pensioner’s purse in Alnwick last week. I hope they are caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Some of the charity shops are giving away free bells which you can attach to a purse and they jingle even with a small amount of movement.

A merry Christmas to you!