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Receiving emails

No one is gifting you a Mac as scam season returns

‘Tis the season may be over, but that doesn’t mean scammers are done with trying to fleece you out of coin. Here’s one more way that people are getting fooled, and how you can avoid it.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”, yet we’re always intrigued by the idea of free regardless. When someone offers us something for free, many of us don’t question it, fearing that the offer will disappear if we suddenly do so.

Yet that’s exactly what we should be doing, especially in the world of online, when criminals are eager to run scams and take people for a ride, particularly if they’ve fallen for the idea of something being given or gifted to them.

That’s one of the recent scams going around, it seems, as Sophos highlights a scam popping up over email pointing out a shipping company alerting to a new year gift of a product coming from a distribution centre, specifically of it being a Mac.

It’s not a new scam, and many would see this as largely an old one, particularly because like some of the scams that arrive on your phone from a fake version of Australia Post, you’re basically just dealing with a fake alert designed to make you think you have a package waiting. But while the regular carrot is that Australia Post is talking to you, in this one, it’s a freebie, a lure that for many is just too great.

However, the free laptop is just an attempt at phishing, with a one dollar shipping fee the way to get access to your credit card. Once you hit that site and enter your details in, you’ll never get your so-called “free” MacBook, and instead will likely see some purchases made on your credit card.

“This email from a ‘courier’ company is a typical example of a phishing attack designed to dupe the receiver,” said Ben Verschaeren, Globel Solutions Engineer at Sophos.

“While there are a number of telltale signs that indicate this is a malicious email, it’s easy enough to not pick them up,” he said, telling Pickr that over the holiday and new year period, it’s necessary for people to be vigilant when receiving these, even if the alert can seem exciting that a product is waiting for them.

“When going through emails or text messages, it’s important to scrutinise each one carefully,” he said. “In this instance, the most obvious sign is the offer itself — have you ever been ‘gifted’ something as valuable as a MacBook Pro?”

A recent scam picked up by Sophos

You might have been given a gift of a laptop from a friend or family member before, and your workplace might let you take a laptop home, but the reality is no one is giving free laptops out, so it’s useful to question why a random laptop might be coming your way. It’s not a mistaken delivery, but it would be a mistake for you to enter your details and give away your credit or debit card information.

Beyond the obvious point of the freebie — because you’re not going to get a free phone or laptop from an email offer — you’ll want to check the email’s address and where it’s coming from.

Scammers can’t use actual company addresses, and so much like SMS scams, will either fake something near a real one or use something extremely off the mark, hoping that you won’t check either. If something seems fishy on an email, it probably is, particularly if there’s a link asking you for payment on shipping.

Often, the reality is that if something has reached the shipping centre, its shipping has been paid for. A postal company shouldn’t ask for more payment just to release it, yet this is a reliable tactic for scammers that people fall for.

Essentially, the solution for this type of scam is this: if you’re being offered a free laptop and think you need to pay a buck shipping to get it, don’t fall for it. It’s a trap, and one you don’t need in your life.

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