I had just started to write this month’s scam tip when I received an undeliverable message alert in my email. The message had the subject line, “I hacked your device firstname.lastname@example.org and you have a problem now…” Not being one to overlook divine intervention (or pure dumb luck), I decided I’d found my November scam tip.
How the “I hacked your device” scam works
So, what’s the deal with the “I hacked your device” email scam? Is it a scammer, or was my device really compromised? While it’s impossible to tell as I write this tip, there is a very high probability this is a scam. In all likelihood, nobody has compromised my device. I’ve lost no data. It’s just a guy who sent me an email in hopes I would pony up money because of his threats.
The bottom line is this is an extortion racket. In the old days, it was two burly guys who showed up in person and demanded money for someone named Vinny. These days, it’s all done online—and is mostly anonymous.
What you can do about this scam
My solution for this email was to look at the source information. According to that, the email came from an IP address that belongs to a company called INAP. On their About page, I discovered that INAP’s mission is to provide “Empowering purposeful, performance-driven IT transformation at global scale.” Their mission sounds pretty ambitious to me, so I sent a message to their “abuse” email and reported the scam.
I received a response about 48 hours later telling me the sender’s information had been spoofed, the originating address was not on the INAP servers, and advising me I should change my login credentials for my email account. Sigh…so much for justice. On the flip side, that email address isn’t even real, so there’s nothing for me to change.
3 tips to deal with the I hacked your device scam
Tip 1: Don’t pay money to someone who claims they have compromised your device. I don’t know the odds on this, but it’s a long shot that the person contacting you is telling the truth. Most likely, they’re looking for an easy buck.
Tip 2: Keep your device software current. By downloading the most up-to-date versions of the apps you use, you’ll minimize your risk. This advice applies to all of your software, not just that designed to handle viruses and malware.
Tip 3: Never connect to an unknown network. In these days of mobile devices and our never-ending thirst for internet bandwidth, it’s tempting to make use of any available internet connection. But, before you sign onto a network, be sure you know who’s running it. Is it a business you frequent? If so, happy surfing. If not, think about finding a different way to satisfy that thirst.