Child Predator scam tries to trick you into downloading a virus

ID-100258813Parents love their kids and want to protect them from danger. Unfortunately, some cyber-criminals are taking advantage of parents’ fears with an email designed to scare them into downloading malware.

The email is disguised as a “community safety” alert warning for parents about a child predator in the area, but it’s really a scam.

Your BBB warns you to keep both your kids and your computer safe, by using legitimate resources and avoiding scam emails.

How the scam works:
The email carries the subject line “Alert:There is a Child-Predator Living Near You!” and claims to be a notification that “a registered-child-offender has just moved into your area.” The email claims this information is based on your “local area zipcode.” However, you don’t remember signing up for such a service.

The email tells you to click a link to “learn more about this predator-alert.” If you click, you are redirected through several sites to land on the website for “Kids Live Safe,” a service that sells localized reports on sex offenders.

Unfortunately, the spam message isn’t actually affiliated with Kids Live Safe. The scammers merely use a legitimate website to gain credibility and distract from the actual scam. Clicking the scam link in the email is enough to infect your machine with malware, even if you ultimately end up at a legitimate site.

Once it infects your machine, the malware will search for stored information such as usernames, passwords and credit card numbers.

How to spot a scam email:

Don’t click on links that come in unsolicited emails. Go to your browser and search for the real organization if you want more information.

Check out the “From” field: Scammers have the ability to mask email addresses, making the message appear to come from a legitimate source. But they don’t always use it. Look out for email addresses that don’t match the brand used in the email message.

Watch for typos, strange phrasing and bad grammar. Scammers can easily copy a brand’s logo and email format, but awkward wording and poor grammar are typically a give away that the message is a scam. In the example above, the awkward phrase “local area zipcode.”

Hover over URLs to reveal their true destination. Often, the hyperlinked text will say one thing, but the link will point somewhere else. Scammers either set up fake websites or hack into third-party sites and use them to host malware.

The email claims to have information about you, but you never signed up for it. Scams often pretend to be personalized for you, but they are actually blast emails. Don’t fall for this! If you never signed up for custom email alerts, you shouldn’t be receiving them.

For more information

To get information on registered sex offenders in your area, check out the FBI’s directory of state databases. To read more about this scam, check out this alert from CBS in San Francisco.

NOTE: Kids Live Safe is a BBB Accredited Business.

To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper.