Internet perils

David Elder (Letters, 7 January) rightly draws attention to the perils of responding to the many e-mails purporting to come from banks and HMRC. These are often couched in terms which the wary will recognise as being attempts at “phishing”, but which older and less-experienced internet users may not understand are aimed at stealing money from them.

A current scam is for a notice to appear on screen, notifying the user that the police suspect them of illegal activities such as distributing copyright music which, of course, many younger internet users may well have done, which lends credence to the claim.

Receivers are notified that they must pay a “penalty” of, perhaps, £100 and a countdown clock indicates when their computer will be shut down and all their files encrypted. The option is to pay up or lose all their data.

In fact, the way to escape this scam is to reboot in “safe mode” and restore your computer to an earlier date. The threat vanishes.

Another scam which I would strongly advise users to beware of is the intelligent online scammer. Such an individual targets specific people by establishing who they are and addressing e-mails, supposedly from institutions, to them by name. I have been targeted in this manner by one or more such individuals and the only safe course of action is to contact any institution by telephone that seems to have sent a request for you to log into your account through a link in the e-mail.

Remember that such scam e-mails appear to come not only from banks, but eBay, PayPal and Amazon. Others appear to come from people you know, who claim to have been robbed while they are in a foreign country and ask you to send them a sizeable amount of money to help them get home. Again, do not be taken in as this is a common scam.

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive

Edinburgh