If you get an email claiming to be about a missing person, delete it immediately. Then, go into your delete file of your email program and delete that. Ideally, you shouldn’t even open the email so that you won’t be exposed to whatever malware (malicious software) that’s inside. However, you may get a well-intentioned email forward from a friend or someone whose email address you recognize.
It’s A Scam
Missing person emails are scams, along the same lines as charity email scams, internet lottery scams or “I have a free puppy in Africa to ship to you” emails. They are all phishing emails. They hope that you will voluntarily give your personal information to be used for identity theft. Some look innocent enough, but are seeded with malware that begins to run as soon as you click open the email.
Many times missing person emails are a variation of an electronic chain letter. Instead of sending money to a strange address in order to ward off a curse, the malware in the missing person email will quietly gather your computer data. With each inbox the email winds up ion, the more personal data sent to the cyber criminal that started the bogus missing person email.
Real From Fake
But what is the missing person email is for real? This is highly unlikely. Techies and geeks on the internet have a tendency not to notice real people too much, let alone get any chance of just happening to recognize a real person in the fleeting moments we make forays into the outside world. Sending missing person descriptions to random email addresses will get nowhere.
If the missing person information is for real, it won’t be sent through email chain letters or spam. It will be on the news, on television, on the sides of milk cartons or even posters in the Post Office. They are far more reliable sources of information than an email chain letter, and far safer for you.
Risk of Identity Theft
Identity theft is on the rise, according to research firm Gartner. It has risen more than 50% in just the years 2003 to 2006. This is actually a bigger number than reported by the Federal Trade Commission, but we’re still talking millions of victims of identity theft a year. You don’t need to join their ranks.
In February of 2007, Gartner claimed that a victim of identity theft would loose an average of $5000. Recent software protection ads have made this number much higher, but this is still a sizable chunk of money that no one can afford to loose. Avoiding any suspicious email or any chain emails like those for missing persons can save you from a lot of heartache. Also, avoid file sharing on peer-to-peer (P2P) networks.