By Robb Hicken, BBB
If anyone really wanted to know about Rick Waitley, of Boise, all they would need to do is go to the Internet.
Waitley, a private consultant and lobbyist, says he keeps getting annoying email notifications about someone running a background check on him. The notices are apparently from a company in San Diego.
“I keep getting these,” he says. “Are they scam?”
The email subject line reads, “Alert:Somebody has just run a background-scan on you. Confirm results here (#2376523773).” The body of the message asks the recipient to click a link to learn more. There’s no text identifying the sender, which BBB learned is Instant Checkmate in California. Clicking the link takes you to the company’s website, where you are encouraged to enter the name of a person to conduct a background search.
On April 9, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission settled charges against Instant Checkmate that alleged that the company was violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act by allowing consumer’s personal information to be furnished to people who had no permissible purpose to use the information and also not taking reasonable measures to ensure the information being provided was accurate.
The email Waitley received may not be a scam, but we question the ethics of any company that sends uninvited email with no clear sender identification. Most people call it spam. This type of notification is defined as “click bait” or “click jacking.”
Most often this type of email is used to gather Likes or Followers by unethical businesses that traditionally exploit tragedies. Here are examples:
- Impersonating victims or family members on social media.
- Selling memorabilia, often promising that some or all of the proceeds will go to charity
- Posting teasers for sensational video footage or photos
Most recently, BBB witnessed an uptick with the Malaysia Airline incidents and when actor Robin Williams died. Any of these tactics can lead to downloading malware on your computer or smartphone, sharing personal information that can lead to identity theft, or providing information that can be used for additional spamming.
Sensational, prurient or emotional content has a great appeal to the masses. While click bait emails may not ask for your “cash,” the websites or pictures make money after the link collects enough “likes” and comments. Once the email hits a certain number, it is then sold for a profit.
BBB urges consumers to take steps to protect themselves from scams shared through email and social media:
- Don’t take the bait. Stay away from promotions of “exclusive,” “shocking” or “sensational” footage. If it sounds too outlandish to be true, it is probably a scam.
- Hover over a link to see its true destination. Before you click, mouse over the link to see where it will take you. Don’t click on links leading to unfamiliar websites.
- Go to the original email, scroll to the end. Look for the line, “… Go here now if you would rather not receive this “emailadcontent” any longer: Link” Click the link to unsubscribe.
- Don’t trust your “friends” online. It might not actually be your friends who are “liking” or sharing scam links to photos. Their account may have been hacked and scammers could be using another tactic called “clickjacking.” Clickjacking is a technique that scammers use to trick you into clicking on social media links that you would not usually click on.