Ominous photos and a frightening headline are the markers of an old email phishing scam resurfacing in inboxes nationwide this year. It warns of possible sex offenders in your neighborhood and features photos designed to alarm parents and trigger their desire to protect their children. Scammers hope you will click a link before you think.
With over 860,000 identified sex offenders in the U.S. at last count, it’s quite possible one could be living near you but fear tactics like this questionable email offer more harm than help.
Using Fear to Perpetrate a Scam
The tersely written email triggers fear by indicating undesirable people could live nearby. It’s a scary thought for parents, but you could expose your computer to malware if you take this bait and click a link. The scam was first documented in 2014 and popped up recently in Colorado.
The current subject line reads “Child Predator Alert_In_Your_Area.” The header states the mail comes from Kids Live Safe, a Better Business Bureau-accredited organization founded in 2009. Though Kids Live Safe has generated numerous complaints on the national BBB website about recurring charges of $30 a month after data seekers grab a 7-day trial for $1, that’s not at the heart of this ploy. In fact, Kids Live Safe is not connected with this scam.
The Better Business Bureau warned in 2015 that one link click took users through several websites before they landed at Kids Live Safe. “Sending users to (the Kids Live Safe) website appears to be a way to lend credibility and distract from the actual scam. Clicking on the other link (the scam link) is enough to infect your machine with malware, even if you ultimately end up at a legitimate site. Once it’s on your machine, the malware will attempt to search for stored information such as usernames, passwords and credit card numbers,” the BBB cautioned.
Check Before You Click
Hover your computer’s cursor over the URL links and view where the embedded links will take you. If you see a shortened link that obscures your destination or one that’s not from the alleged sender, that’s a huge red flag. Just say “NO” to links in emails. Instead, navigate to the website yourself by searching for the company you want.
At ID Watchdog, we realize that child protection is a parent’s Job #1. That’s why we expanded our services last year to include alerts about convicted sex offenders at no additional charge. When a known offender moves into your neighborhood, you get a heads up as part of our standard service package.
As for brand new neighbors, your best defense could be a healthy dose of skepticism.
Sign into your ID Watchdog account and learn more about sex offender reporting and notifications. You can search an area around an address. Photos of offenders nearby are viewable with physical descriptions and conviction data.