New “British” scam picked up by the government, how not to get caught

There may well be a sucker born every minute, but you don’t actually have to be that person, with the government and an internet security group chiming in to talk about a new scam and what you can do to avoid it.

You can pretty much expect a new scam every day, and this week’s taker for that category is one even the government feels obliged to talk about, as it picks up on a scam arriving from a “Senior Executive at British Council”.

A Senior Executive, you say? And what British Council might that be?

Well, we’re not too sure on either, but according to the crew at Stay Smart Online, this email is becoming a bit of a problem, with this so-called senior executive asking to share a “confidential proposal” and return an email, which in turn can result in a possible security scare.

At this point, we’re not quite sure what exactly the payload is, but at a guess, we’d say this might be a scam mixed in with some social engineering for good measure, with the eventual “confidential proposal” arriving possibly even as some form of ransomware, which could take a hold of some important files and try to get you to cough up money.

Unfortunately, scams such as this one are not new and will continue to make their way around simply because they work.

However, you can avoid them with a bit of common sense, as well as a dose of internet security on your computer.

For starters, if you don’t know who sent you the email, don’t click a link or respond to it, and always take an email that comes out of nowhere with a grain of salt.

Generally, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, so expecting a “confidential proposal” from a “senior executive” to result in free money — which is generally what we’re all conditioned to think — is sort of like expecting someone to hand you a wad of cash for doing nothing. Simply put, it won’t happen, and no matter how much wishful thinking you engage in, it’s going to end up with a big fat nothing, possibly taking some of your personal sense of security with it, and even holding you to ransom.

That last part, the ransom side of things, is generally only likely to occur on a desktop or laptop, but mobiles and tablets aren’t immune either.

“Typically such unsolicited messages tend contain a shortened link, which maybe malicious,” said Sieng Chye Oh, Malware Researcher at ESET.

“If a user were to click on this link the malware would infect their device. Although it has mainly been affecting desktop computer users up until now, there is a potential it could infect phones and tablets.”

Not clicking is obviously the first order of business, but if you do happen to click — whether accidentally or out of interest — having a piece of software to check on what your machine is doing from a security standpoint would be beneficial.

“A robust and up-to-date security protection solution will detect malicious links, and help to provide protection against any potentially dangerous applications,” said Chye.

Chye also advises asking questions, because if you’re not sure who sent an email or if you should click, asking yourself a question instead of just hoping for people to be honest and true may end up getting you a more secure result.

“When it comes to what your friends have posted online, be careful of scammers in disguise,” said Chye.

“If you see a suspicious post from a friend, ask yourself: how sensible is this link? Is it about a subject matter you know they’re interested in, or completely random, and therefore how likely is this post to be from that person? Can I get to content through an official website, or do I have to use a dubious-looking link?”

If the answers to these questions fall in the negative, it might be easier not to click on that link and hit delete on the email so you’re not tempted, but we’d also make sure a form of internet security was running before that happened, and really given the amount of security scares out there, a security app should be your first order of business if you do anything online.