Cybercrime has been a lucrative business for swindlers since the early days of the internet. Despite the advancements in security, such as biometrics, and promising payment trends, like the blockchain, hackers and criminals will always be one-step ahead of us. That’s why it’s important for us to become knowledgeable on the common ways that scammers use to steal your hard-earned money so that we can thwart any threats before they become a problem.
1. Phishing scams
This is one of the oldest, and most prevalent, scams out there. In fact, GoDaddy customers are currently dealing with a phishing scam.
Phishing scams are when cybercriminals install malicious software onto your device, after you click on a link that you received in an email or social media message, in order to trick you into sharing login credentials to your bank account, social network, work account or cloud storage provider. They may even be able to steal your health insurance or frequent flyer miles!
Sometimes these emails or messages look legit. I know that I’ve received emails in the past that appeared to be from PayPal or my bank. Luckily, the address from the email sender didn’t exactly look right and I compared it to the address that I knew was from the bank — before I opened it. Sure enough, it didn’t match and I deleted the email immediately.
2. Free trial offer
We’ve all come across those free one-month trials for an amazing product like a weight-loss program. The catch? You just have to pay for shipping and handling. And, that’s just a low price of $5.95!
Unfortunately, there’s the fine print that you’ll never be able to read — probably because it’s in a color that blends into the background. This fine print states that you’ll be required to pay expensive monthly fees. Suddenly, that $5.95 for shipping and handling is costing you $99 per month after the free trial expires.
3. In the name of love
With a fair amount of people looking for Mr. or Mrs. right online, it unfortunately makes sense that scammers would use this as an opportunity to scam unsuspecting people. As the Federal Trade Commission points out, these sick individuals “create fake online profiles using photos of other people — even stolen pictures of real military personnel.” They then profess their love and then tell you a sob story which can be resolved if you send them money.
Most of the time they’ll ask you to set-up a new account and have you transfer money into the new account. Although, if you watch Catfish, some of these people simply have your wire the cash to a place like Western Union.
4. “A friend has sent you an E-Card”
This is another email scam that has been around for years. Basically, you receive an E-Card in your email inbox that appears to be from a friend or family member. You open the card, which results in malicious software being downloaded and installed on your operating system. Ultimately, this software will begin sharing private data and financial information to a fraudulent server that is being controlled by cyber criminals.
5. The Wifi danger zone
We’ve been in a public space, such as a coffee shop or airport, and willingly log into the local Wi-Fi zone. The login page resembles a free service or a pay service like Boingo Wireless, and since it appears to be on the up-and-up, you join the network.
In some cases, there’s a nearby crook who is actually mining your computer for ebank, credit card and other password information. This is why regtech is so important for financial institutions to implement.
6. It’s the “too good to be true” offer
Did you just receive an incredible offer on the latest iPhone? How about a new credit card offer with an unbeatable interest rate?
Since you don’t want to miss out on this once-in-lifetime deal, you make the purchase or accept the offer. Of course, this was all a ploy to steal your financial information.
Always remember. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
7. Your computer is infected
Here’s another golden oldie. You’re online doing your thing and then a popup appears from a legitimate-sounding antivirus software program warning you that your computer is infected and you need to download the program. Concerned, you click on the link and now malicious software is scanning your computer for login information.
In other scenarios, the “software” finds a virus and promises to remove it for a fee. Of course, this never happens. But, the cyber criminal now has your credit card information.
8. Tugging at your heart-strings
There are some extremely vile people out there who will claim that they’re from a charity and pleading for your monetary help. Even worse, they’ll take advantage of recent natural disasters or events so that they scam seems legit — while also tugging at your heart-strings — in order to obtain your cash and banking information.
“Ransomware, which is a form of malware, works by either holding your entire computer hostage or by blocking access to all of your files by encrypting them,” writes Cadie Thompson in Business Insider.“A person infected with ransomware is typically ordered (via a pop-up window) to pay anything from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars in order to get the key to unlock their encrypted data.”
What’s concerning about ransomware is that it’s evolving and spreading. This is because cyber criminals are “using the most modern cryptography to encrypt stolen files and are getting really good at making their dangerous links and downloads seem perfectly benign.”
For example, a cyber criminal could be impersonating a utility company and is threatening to turn off your service unless you complete the attached form.
10. That’s not really your Facebook friend
Since pretty much everyone has a Facebook account, it’s not really surprising that criminals would use the social network for their benefit.
This scam is simple. You get a friend request from someone that you may or not know. But, you have some mutual friends. So, you accept their request. Now this individual has access to your other friends, photographs, and information like your hobbies, where you work, and what school you attended. They then create a fake account where they pose as you.
This person then asks your Facebook friends for money or expose them to malware after “you” ask them to click on a link to watch a funny video or take a survey.
How to avoid online scams
Regardless if it’s an email scam, social networking scam or scare tactic, there are several ways to protect yourself.
- Use common sense. If you don’t recognize an email address, delete the message and never open the message in the first place.
- Never keep the same password across multiple accounts.
- Change password to all important accounts every 6 months.
- Avoid opening email attachments. For example, reputable E-Card companies never include attachments.
- Pay attention to spelling and grammar.
- Never share important financial information. Again, use common sense. A legitimate organization will never ask for your Social Security Number or bank account number.
- If a deal or offer looks too good to be true, it is.
- Consider using security measures like two-factor authentication. This is especially important when dealing with any form of mobile wallet or ePayment.
- Only make purchases or donations by known and legitimate organizations.
- Change your smartphone settings so that it won’t automatically join wifi networks.
- Install a good antivirus program. And, make sure that you keep it updated.
If you do believe that you’ve been a victim of cybercrime, contact your bank and credit card company and cancel your card immediately — or even close your account completely. It also wouldn’t hurt to inform the authorities. And, don’t forget to turn off you computer and disconnect it from your network so that it doesn’t spread to other devices.
(By Renzo Costarella)