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Advance fee or '419 Fraud'

This involves unsolicited letters and e-mail messages offering the recipient a generous reward for helping to move large sums of money, usually in US dollars. These funds are said to be anything from corporate profits/accumulated bribes/unspent government funds to unclaimed money belonging to a deceased person. The fraudsters are after banking details. The transactions typically require the recipient of the letter or e-mail message to pay something like a fee/tax/bribe to complete the deal – this is the advance fee. However, any fees paid will be lost.

Identity theft

Identity theft is a crime in which a fraudster obtains key pieces of personal information, such as date of birth, bank details or driver's licence numbers, in order to impersonate someone else. The personal information discovered is then used illegally to apply for credit, purchase goods and services, or gain access to bank accounts.

Investment or share sale (boiler room) fraud

Boiler room fraud is the common name for illegal and/or aggressive mis-selling of worthless, bogus or vastly overpriced stocks and shares or those traded in very limited volumes/markets. The sole purpose of the exercise is to defraud unwitting investors. If the victim does decide to deal with a share sale fraudster, they will almost certainly lose any money invested and will not be entitled to compensation.

Keystroke capturing/logging

Anything you type on a computer can be captured and stored. This can be done using a hardware device attached to your computer or by software running almost invisibly on the machine. Keystroke logging is often used by fraudsters to capture personal details including passwords. Some recent viruses are even capable of installing such software without the user's knowledge.

The risk of encountering keystroke logging is greater on computers shared by a number of users, such as those in internet cafes. An up-to-date antivirus software program and firewall will help remove the harmful software before it can be used.

Lottery fraud

This involves letters or e-mail messages, which advise the recipient that they have won a prize in a lottery. To obtain the funds, they are asked to respond to the letter or e-mail message. A request will then be made for the recipient to provide his bank account details to allow for funds to be transferred. The recipient may also be asked to pay a handling/processing fee. If paid, this fee will be lost. Also, any details given will probably be used to commit further fraud.

Malware

Short for 'malicious software', this is designed to infiltrate a computer system without your consent. The term covers a variety of intrusive software/programs, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses and spyware.

Pharming

Pharming is when a fraudster creates false websites in the hope that people will visit them by mistake. People can sometimes do this by mistyping a website address – or sometimes a fraudster can redirect traffic from a genuine website to their own. The 'pharmer' will then try to obtain your personal details when you enter them into the false website.

Phishing

Phishing involves an e-mail message being sent out to as many internet e-mail addresses as the fraudster can obtain. Usually, these e-mails claim to come from a legitimate organisation such as a bank or online retailer. The e-mail requests the recipient to update or to verify their personal and financial information, including date of birth, login information, account details, credit card numbers, PINs etc. The e-mail will contain a link that takes you to a spoof website that looks identical (or very similar) to the organisation's genuine site. The fraudster can then capture personal data such as passwords. Clicking on a link may also download malware onto your computer, which will record your future use of the internet and forward even more information to the fraudster. The fraudsters will then use this information to compromise bank accounts, credit cards etc.

Spyware

These are programs/files that may already reside on your computer and often arrive as hidden components of 'free' programs. Spyware monitors web usage and in its more extreme forms can include keystroke logging and virtual snooping on all your computer activity.

Trojan horse/Trojan

Apparently legitimate software that carries an unwanted application like a virus or spyware – typically used by hackers to gain unauthorised access to computer systems.

Virus

A computer program designed to replicate by copying itself into other programs stored in a computer. It may be harmless but usually has a negative effect, such as slowing your computer down or corrupting its memory and files. Viruses are now mainly spread by e-mail and by file-sharing services.

Virus hoax e-mail

Many e-mail warnings about viruses are hoaxes, designed purely to cause concern and disrupt businesses. Such warnings may be genuine, so don't take them lightly, but always check the story out by visiting an antivirus site such as McAfee, Sophos or Symantec before taking any action or forwarding them to friends and colleagues.

Worm

This is a malicious program that replicates itself until it fills all of the storage space on a computer drive or network. Worms may use up computer time, space and speed when replicating, with a malicious intent to slow or bring down entire web servers and disrupt internet use.