Top Online Security Scams & How To Avoid Them
The Internet has made it much easier for people to communicate with each other. Even if you are located at opposite sides of the world, you can exchange information, send files, and even money in mere seconds. This level of speed and convenience has truly changed the way we live. However, it has also opened up our lives to an entirely different set of risks and dangers.
Crime and criminal intentions have not changed; they only become more sophisticated, along with the advancement of technology. As new methods of protection are developed, criminals also upgrade their “skills” and look for unique ways to get their hands on your private information. The methods of attack and the tools they use vary. They can be in the form of malicious software and other types of exposure discreetly installed into your computer or those ingenious phishing scams that come from strange parts of the world (where justice can’t easily reach).
When Are You Exposed?
The most popular routes that will make you vulnerable to online security threats include shopping online, accessing social media networks, and checking email. Generally, as long you as you keep using the Internet and clicking those strange links, you place yourself at a position of vulnerability. While we cannot stop the threats from coming entirely, there are ways to protect and make ourselves less likely to become victims. First is by knowing the most popular schemes criminals use to bait people into giving their private data online. Here are 10 of them.
- Nigerian Scam
This is one of the most popular and arguably oldest scams online. You get an email, private message, or mail sent by a prince or a representative of an ultra-wealthy family from Nigeria (or other parts of Africa). In the letter, he or she will ask for your help in retrieving a large amount of money from a foreign bank. It will say that you only need to pay for the initial legal and processing fees; in exchange, he or she will give you a huge commission.
Because the amount reaches hundreds of millions, people are naturally curious and attracted. You will then be lured into sending more money for additional fees, services, and whatnot. You will even receive actual papers to supposedly prove that payments or transfers have been made. In the end, you’ve released a chunk of your money and do not get anything in return. The “family” is nowhere to be found and no messages will be acknowledged.
- Phishing Email Scam
This is usually done via email or a DM on social networks. You get a message that will trick you into providing your passwords, bank account details, social security number, and more. This message will seem like it came from an official source, like your bank, and will ask you to “update” your information. If not, they will give you an “urgent” situation and tell you your account is under threat or their site has been compromised and you need to change your details immediately.
However, close inspection will show you a slight difference in the URL (like a missing letter or an added character) or the absence of the “https://” (which indicates that it is encrypted). These little changes are easy to overlook, especially if you’re not Internet savvy. Before you know it, criminals have access to your financial details and you are left with zero in the bank or a whopping credit card bill.
- Guaranteed Bank Loan or Pre-approved Credit Card Scam
When you’re in a financial rut, it’s very easy to fall prey to offers of a loan or a pre-approved credit card line. If you suddenly receive a message that guarantees you a huge amount of money from the bank, don’t jump up and down just yet. Common sense will help you judge if it’s the real deal or not. Better yet, give your bank a call (don’t send an email to an address that the message gave you) and verify. While it looks pretty obvious that this is a scam, some people are not aware and could find themselves paying for “processing fees” for a loan that does not exist.
- Lottery Scam
You will get an email or mail telling you that you’ve won a large sum of money. However, to claim your prize, you will need to pay for transfer fees, legal fees, and other related costs. Even if you didn’t buy any lottery tickets in the first place, some of these raffle scams will say that you have been randomly selected out of millions because you went to so-and-so website. Do not be a victim.
- Greeting Card Scam
We always see this in our spam emails. You get a e-greeting card supposedly from your friend and you just have to open it to view the personal message. The moment you click, malicious software enters your system discreetly. It can be in the form of those annoying pop-up ads that spring up at random times or ransomware, which hijacks your computer and promises to re-open access to you if you pay them a certain amount of money. Having a specialized security program installed in your computer can help ward off these dangerous malware. Better yet, make it a habit to never click anything without verifying first, even if it’s from a friend.
- Romance Scam
This happens on social networks, chat groups, and dating sites. The male scammers will usually be from Africa while the females will normally be from Europe (although they can really come from anywhere). Because we are so attracted by the other person online, we tend to set judgment aside and go with feeling. This is where the scam is anchored on.
It can take weeks to months for that person to gain your trust, until one day he or she will have an “emergency” and will need your help with money. Another scheme is that he or she is already rich and has been “kidnapped.” Because you’ve invested a lot of your time getting to know this person, you naturally think you already have a “connection” and send what’s needed. After the transfer is made, you won’t hear from him or her again. Worse, the scammer could do this to you repeatedly.
- Hitman Scam
The hitman extortion scam preys on your fear. You will get a message that says somebody is trying to get you killed and that you can negotiate payment with the hitman to keep yourself safe. To create the impression of a real threat, the message will go as far as collecting information about you from your social media network, blog, or anywhere else your information might be public.
- Fake Antivirus Scam
This scam stirs up your fear of being hacked online. You will often see a message of this sort “Your computer has been infected! Download this antivirus right now!” Plenty of popups in certain sites also claim to know that your PC has been compromised and ask you to click and download a certain software as protection. Don’t be lured into the scare tactics and always treat things like these as a hoax. For your protection, set your computer up with a good and reputable antivirus product — not those you see lurking around sites or sending spam to your emails.
Majority of these online scams are either playing upon your fear of a security breach or your need to be more financially secure. If you receive a message that offers you money in exchange for something (a small fee or your personal information), run the other way and click that X button immediately. You might also get a random email offering non-existent job openings in a variety of companies, where you will again be asked to key your personal details and financial data in to view the “full suite” of offers.
Thus, the general rule when judging scams online is: if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.