Alerts E-Threats

Old Pranks and Hoaxes Still Work

The spirit of April Fools’ Day is meant to be fun. But pranks and jokes turn sinister in the online world as fraudsters target innocent people in a diligent attempt to steal identities, money or infect systems with malware.

Fraudsters pull a prank on taxpayers each year when they steal people’s rebate money from the IRS. Around this time of year, scammers send US citizens e-mails telling them to fill in a form to get back some money. The data provided by the victim in the form may then be used to collect the rebate in their name.

A year-round staple of the hoax world is the Nigerian scam. Fake distress e-mails adapt the scam script to the latest political or social realities. Fraudsters make up sad stories about someone inheriting big sums of money, selling a non-existing car or not being able to get out of a country. They need good-hearted people to send them money.

Whenever a celebrity dies – and they don’t just die on April 1 – fraudsters immediately launch a Facebook hoax promising users exclusive videos related to the death to make people download a Trojan instead. The same trick also works when crooks allegedly offer “xxx private videos” of people’s friends or Miley Cyrus.

The charity scam is the hoax that tricks people into “liking” and sharing Facebook pages that allegedly “trade” likes for dollars. The truth is that these sad stories only help crooks use people’s engagement to redirect likes to fraudulent and malicious profiles and pages.

Weak passwords, including “password”, “12345678”, “querty”, “iloveyou”, “monkey”, “jesus” are more and more becoming the passwords of people who are not just foolish in April. They use simple or easy-to-memorize passwords and end up victims of fraud. The weak passwords can easily be figured out of others who then take over the accounts and lock out the owners.

Although surprises may be fun, the above-mentioned ones are not only annoyingly persistent, but also extremely dangerous.

About the author


A blend of teacher and technical journalist with a pinch of e-threat analysis, Loredana Botezatu writes mostly about malware and spam. She believes that most errors happen between the keyboard and the chair. Loredana has been writing about the IT world and e-security for well over five years and has made a personal goal out of educating computer users about the ins and outs of the cybercrime ecosystem.