Various Online Scams That You Need Know About
By Nick Anderson 7 minutes
We talk about privacy and security and how to effectively combat data theft and surveillance, but the guides are only as effective as the person using them. Precautions start with the realization that such dangers exist, only then can you wire your mind to always be vigilant.
Much of loss – whether personal or financial – comes from our own negligence. Online scams are still very much a thing to this day. They prey on unsuspecting victims. Over the span of two decades, online scams have taken various forms. One might be more dangerous than the other but they all attempt to steal your information or cause you financial loss.
Let’s take a look at how online scams work.
How Online Scams Target You
Online scams operate on the hope that the targeted individual is not tech savvy and in unaware of that particular scam. Most of the people born in the 90s and later are people who were born when the internet age had just begun. People between the ages of 25-30 are much more likely to be aware of online scams as people in 50s and above.
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) report, although people in their 60s are more likely to report a scam, they are also experience more financial loss.
Scams come in various forms. Remember the infamous Nigerian Prince who was reaching out to random people to share his wealth? That’s a phishing scam. Such scams target a large email list. The scammer then sits back and waits for someone to believe it’s legit. From there on, the scammer will exchange emails and ask for banking details.
If the knowledge of scams was widespread there would be more people deleting the email immediately. Although mailing services are robust at marking phishing attempts as spam, one or two may escape notice.
The first is the most common one. In Phishing, scammers target people via email and give them an exciting opportunity. Taking the example of the Nigerian Prince scam, it would involve the scammer asking your banking details for the purpose of transferring his fortune to you. The real purpose is luring you into sharing banking details with him.
Secondly, the scammer will ask you to transfer a fee to his account as payment to release the fortune from the bank. Having achieved the purpose of tricking you into sending money, the said Nigerian Prince will ghost you.
Similarly, you might receive an email informing that you are someone’s next of kin, and the said dead person has left a fortune for you to inherit.
Next time you receive an email from “Apple” saying that your iCloud account has been locked and you need to reactivate it, double-check where that email came from. Scammers use convincing email templates and landing pages that are designed to make you believe.
Ransomeware is very a dangerous attack on your personal data. A scammer fabricates a convincing story and lures you into downloading a file disguised as malware. Once you download and execute it, the malicious code will attack user files and encryption them.
Encryption is a process of turning regular text into cipher-text. So, unless you know the key, your precious user files will remain unusable. The scammer will ask for ransom to unlock the files. Imagine losing your important work documents or your personal photos to encryption.
They usually ask for Bitcoin, which leaves you with little details to track the scammer.
Just as the world is under the pandamic of COVID-19 and several countries are observing lockdown, hackers and scammers are taking advantage of the panic. Reports have surfaced of malicious apps and phishing techniques.
According to a recent security report, a phishing attempt is stealing user credentials. The scammer targeted victims – staff and students – by posing as university officials. Just as the user clicks on the click in the email, a fabricated webpage that looks like Office365 login page is displayed. The user assumes session has timed out and credentials need to be entered again. The login fields then deliver your credentials to the scammer.
In a similar case, an app by the name of COVID19 Tracker, which allegdes to give you updates on the virus through stats and heatmap visuals. The app is actually ransomware in disguise and locks you out of your device when you give it user permissions.
These types of scams prey on the user’s lack of technical understanding. You might see pop-ups alerting you that your system is infected. The pop-up will prompt you click in order to disinfect the system. It will either take you to a different website or start download an executable file.
The file will be a malware that will infect your system. The severity of that will depend on the type of malware it is.
The FTC took down a company that was targeting people based on technical assistance they searched for on Google. The company’s telemarketers would get back to these people using the contact info they left and ask for access to the computer. As a user, all you would care about getting your system fixed, so you would be willing to pay anything the telemarketer tried to sell you. The entire conversaion would be so assuring that makes you feel it really is in your best interest.
Credit Card Scam
Bank fraud or credit card scammers target people over the phone by alerting them of a breach in their account. While you would be taken aback by a potential misuse, the scammer will ask for your bank details and credit card security code for verification.
The scame is not limited to just calls, it could reach you through text or email.
Social Media Scams
Social Media’s power and influence has enabled e-commerce stores that can operate without worrying about the cost that comes attached with running and maintaining a website. However, online scams have taken the form of fake online stores that sell goods at cheap prices or deception by selling fake versions.
You might also see posts that appear to be a brand handing out free stuff to random winners or giveaways that asks you to share posts in order to participate. Always check where the post is coming from. You can distinguish official accounts from fake ones by checking the blue tick icon next to the name.
Always trust reputable sellers when shopping for items through online marketplaces, even on big platforms such Ebay. Generally, online marketplaces reward successful deals with a postitive score to the seller/buyer.
If you agree to inspect the product in person, always mutually agree on a safe place.
It’s natural to be swayed by emotions, so you must always be mindful of what you share with others. Scammers may target you by approaching as a love interest and demand money or gifts from time to time. If things get more personal, they may become in possession of compromising content that may lead to blackmail.
Conclusion – What Can You Do to Protect Yourself
First thing you must is install a trusted and robust Anti-Virus that can rootout various malware and not just typical viruses. Secondly – as a rule of thumb – you must never click on unknown links online. Always verify the sender before making a move. If you never requested a password reset then contact the service before clicking the link.
If you are on a public Wi-Fi network, always use a VPN like FastestVPN that encrypts communication with military-grade encryption, so that eavesdroppers cannot see your data.