I'm getting ready to speak to my buddies at Scenic City Friends, and it seems like fraud is all anyone wants to discuss. I've done my part the last several weeks but perhaps one more column is warranted — this time with a more generic grasp of scammers' language and what to beware of when we hear these expressions.

AARP does have some clever ideas and, while we're familiar with some of the terms, it behooves us to become knowledgeable about them all. This week's column and the next help categorize scam methods so we're no longer as afraid of being victimized.

Need-to-know terminology

  •  Brute-force attack is a hacking method that tries every form of character combinations to discover our passwords or encryption keys.
  •  Catfishing is when someone creates a fake onscreen profile to deceive you.
  •  Drive-by download is a malware or a virus that some sneaky scammer loads onto your computer or mobile device. Avoid visiting a site via an embedded link. Instead, write the correct address in your browser and go from there. (See "Pharming.")
  •  Ghosting is a particularly virulent form of identity theft. Using the name of a deceased person, scammers will open credit accounts, obtain loans or even acquire utility or medical services in the dead person's name. Scammers also take infants' Social Security numbers and when the child becomes old enough to seek a loan, their credit is ruined before even entering the bank door.
  •  Hash busters allow random words or sentences in spam emails to bypass your spam filters.
  •  Keylogger logs sequential strokes on your keyboard and sends the strokes to hackers so they can figure out what your logins are for various places.
  •  Malvertising combines "advertising" and "malware" to disable your computers. Malicious online ads that contain malware just hang around waiting for you to click.
  •  Man-in-the-middle attack is when a con artist secretly intercepts and possibly changes messages between two innocent parties who believe they're communicating with each other securely.
  •  Pharming enables fraudsters to use malicious programs to route us to their own websites, where they "pharm" for confidential information. Sometimes this occurs even if we've typed in the correct address of the desired website.
  •  Phishing fools folks into revealing personal data, including your finances. A scammer poses as someone or thing you know, such as the local cable provider.

Contact Ellen Phillips at

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