The internet is a powerful tool that has given us limitless possibilities. But like other forms of technology, there are risks involved in its use, which can be both damaging and even life-threatening if not used responsibly.
Over the years, fraudsters have found new ways to lure us into giving personal information through online scams. Online scams are similar to traditional ones, in the sense that they share a common goal of misleading individuals into sharing sensitive information or making monetary deposits.
Online scams can happen through a variety of methods from phishing emails, social media, SMS messages on your mobile devices, to fake tech support calls, scareware, and more.
As we continue to rely on the internet, it’s important for us to be aware of the scams, and how to avoid being a victim of online scams.
Most Common Online Scams
Online scams have evolved into sophisticated threats that are often difficult to identify. But what we do know is that the methods fraudsters use to trick us are similar. Take a look at the most common online scams.
In just 2021 alone there have been more than 10.5 million phishing and scam pages, making Phishing the top online scam today. Fraudsters prey on us by sending out emails or messages that appear to come from a legitimate source. In these communications, the fraudster tricks you into believing you are communicating to a trusted individual or organization. Quite often the messages are disguised as coming from reputable brands, or companies, making it extremely difficult to spot a fake from a real. Social engineering is often a key manipulation technique these cybercriminals use.
Another type of popular Phishing Scam is the Nigerian Prince scam. These are essential phishing emails in which you are asked to help transfer a large sum of money through wire transfer to the thief. Nigerian Prince scams often play on the emotions of people and start with small amounts which eventually all add up.
Social Media Scams:
We all have at some point in our lives started a social media account to keep our friends and family updated. But over the years, we’ve often abused these platforms to overshare information. This often includes revealing private information about ourselves such as our location, likes, and dislikes. Social media platforms have become a haven for online scammers, who look for opportunities to exploit people. Social media scams involve a variety of posts that you can see in your feeds to get you to click on them. These feed posts often carry malware or redirect you to bogus websites that capture your information.
Online Shopping Scams:
Since the pandemic, our use of the internet for online shopping has soared. However, during the peak of the pandemic, in 2020, Transunion reported 50,176 cases of online retail fraud globally which continued to increase the following year. Online shopping scams involve scammers pretending to be legitimate online sellers, with either a fake website or an advert on a genuine retail site. These fake sites or ads sell goods at a heavily discounted price, luring people into buying from them with only the goods to never arrive.
Tech Support Scams:
Since people have been working from home, tech support scams have increased. This is where you have a scammer call you pretending to be from a legitimate tech company to offer your tech support. Scammers often use scare tactics to trick you into unnecessary technical support services to fix devices or software problems that do not exist.
The purpose of this scam is to trick you into paying for a “fix” to a non-existent problem. Tech support scams have involved people revealing personal information, financial information and sometimes providing access to computers to perform the “fix” which results in the scammers installing malware or ransomware on your device.
Online Dating Scams:
The internet plays an essential role in our social life, and we have started to use online dating apps and sites to find love. However, even those spaces are not free from fraud. Romance scams involve people being tricked into sending money to scammers who go to great lengths such as setting up genuine-looking profiles, talking to you to convince you that they are the perfect match for you. These scammers often prey on your emotions to manipulate you into sending money.
One of the most well-planned frauds is Banking scams. These scammers use phishing techniques to trick you into falling into their trap to steal your financial information. These scams involve cybercriminals pretending to be bank officials who threaten to shut down your accounts if the information is not provided.
How to avoid getting scammed Online?
It can be very difficult to detect or spot a scam. However, there are certain steps you can take to avoid getting caught in an online scam. Here are some of them:
- Block unwanted calls and text messages: Take steps to block unwanted calls and filter unwanted text messages.
- Never disclose confidential information: Never send or give out your personal information. Even if the email or the person you are speaking to appears from a reputable source, always perform an identity check. Remember, official institutions such as the Bank will email you asking for personal information.
- Use multi-factor authentication: Add multi-factor authentication to all your online accounts. Even if your account credentials get into the hands of scammers, your account will be safe with multi-factor authentication activated.
- Maintain security of your social media accounts: configure the privacy settings with care to ensure that all of your personal information is protected. Intruders can utilize social media accounts to obtain information and guess passwords.
- Always look for signs on communications: Always check whether the email address or number you’ve received the message from is genuine.
- Be careful about what you post online: Never share too much information about yourself. Never respond to a request for personal information sent via email, text, or social media message unless you know and trust the contact.
- Always buy from Official sites: Look out for the HTTPS:// and green lock symbol on all websites before buying.
These are just a few steps you can take to keep yourself safe online. However, to truly stay safe, you need to be educated and take proactive steps to understand the dangers. There are plenty of services out there, like Siccura Cybershield that give you an understanding of the dangers, and show you how to stay one step ahead.