It’s sad but true: there’s more chance of being scammed online today than ever in the history of the internet.
More than 64 zettabytes of data were stored on devices in 2020. That’s 64 trillion gigabytes. Online scammers, typically motivated by money, want to gain access to some of that data to access our accounts, make financial transactions, and hold us and our businesses to ransom. If it’s not the data they want, they seek to part us from our money directly.
Online scammers can attack vast numbers of people all over the world from the comfort of their location, and they can do it primarily anonymously.
All these factors make social engineering one of the most prevalent kinds of criminal activity online, and you must stay alert. Read on to brush up on your scam detection skills.
How to Spot a Scam Online
To understand if you’re being scammed, it helps to know what spheres are more exposed to the involvement of fraudulent activities.
Business and Investment
Scams in business and investment aim to convince people to invest in products or services that don’t exist.
Charitable scams are based on fake charities. All money received will never go directly to the charity you’ve wanted to help. Do you want to know who will get richer? Right, scammers.
Numerous scammers preyed on fear, paranoia, and confusion surrounding COVID-19. They demanded extortionate fees for fake tests and cures and continue to this day.
Who hasn’t waited eagerly for the arrival of a parcel? These scams generally suggest that the delivery driver needs personal information or money to complete the delivery.
In these kinds of scams, fraudsters use fake profiles to win the victim’s trust and affection. They may use information about the victim gleaned from a successful phishing attempt that was either performed on the victim or their contacts.
Scammers like to pretend to be tech support to have people grant them full access to their devices. Alternatively, they might direct people who fell for their demands to websites to unwittingly download malicious software, compromising their network and data.
Signs of an Online Scam
Fraudsters often want their victims to act quickly so they don’t have time to think their actions through or get a second opinion. If you receive a message that says you must act immediately or that contains a tight deadline, think twice. Think three times.
Scammers know that people are more likely to act if they are afraid of missing out on an opportunity or fear the repercussions of non-compliance with an authority. If you’re communicating with the person and they keep increasing the urgency, take a step back.
Many scams contain spelling and grammar errors. These are a giveaway for scammers pretending to be official businesses. Professionals invest in making sure their communications are as error-free as possible.
Occasionally, you might receive a well-worded message. If subsequent messages deteriorate in quality, it suggests that the first one was the product of hours spent baiting the hook.
People like to feel special. However, the chances are incredibly low that you have been individually selected to take part in a survey online or receive a prize for a contest you never entered. It’s much more likely that a fraudster has sent the same email indiscriminately to thousands of potential victims.
Demands for Confidential Information
Professional businesses often remind us that they won’t ask for sensitive information like usernames, passwords, or financial information over the phone or by email. It would breach a professional business’s privacy and information security policies.
Demands for Money
Some cybercriminals play the long game. Others flat-out ask you to send money. This might be to prevent non-existent legal action or receive a fake product.
Be wary of anyone who demands money online, especially if they’re asking for wire or money transfers or cryptocurrency payments. These strongly suggest that the potential recipient doesn’t want to be traced.
Cybercriminals often send messages pretending to be from legitimate organizations, such as the government, a delivery service, or, frequently, Microsoft or Facebook. Look out for incorrectly spelled business names and URLs.
Scammers trick people into thinking they are authentic by using near-accurate business names like “TheFacebook” or “FedExpress,” which play on legitimate brands.
How to Protect Yourself from Online Scams
Prevention is better than cure, especially if your personal and financial information is at stake. In addition to being able to spot scams coming, here are some of the top ways to protect yourself from scammers and their tricks.
Avoid Public Wifi
Public wifi, like the kind you get at a coffee shop, hotel, or airport, can be extremely convenient. However, it can also make you more vulnerable to scammers.
Hackers can use an unsecured public network to access your devices, read your emails, and even modify transmissions sent to or from your device to commit fraud.
Regularly Update your Software
Most updates are related to security. For example, the software developer realizes that people can use a vulnerability in the application to access your network or data. They make an update to fix it, and then you click “not now” or “remind me later.”
Keeping all your applications up to date makes hackers’ jobs harder. Install patches as soon as possible.
Use a Virtual Private Network
Hackers love a VPN because it hides their activity online and makes them harder to track. A VPN will make it harder for unscrupulous marketers and outright criminals to get information about you that can help them commit fraud.
Be Careful with Forms and Privacy Policies
Most websites have reasonable privacy policies, especially since the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation kicked in. However, every now and then, a website asks for users’ consent to share and sell their personal information. And they do sell it to disreputable marketers and criminals.
Know Who You’re Dealing With
Try to learn more about the person asking you for personal information. If you have their phone number, use PhoneHistory to see the owner’s name, address, and social profiles.
If all you have is their full name, google it and see what appears in search results. If this scammer has already tried to deceive other people, it’s most likely that the scammer’s name will be revealed online.
Scamming is on the rise, but you can easily spot it. With practice, you will become a Jedi at noticing and preventing online phishing attempts and other scams.
Protect yourself and your loved ones by remembering the motivation of criminals and understanding how their communications differ from those of legitimate professionals. If you’re suspicious about an email or website, examine it carefully and verify its authenticity. Doing so can save you time and money.