The internet is a vast and ever-changing landscape, and with that comes both good and bad. One of the downsides of the internet is the prevalence of scams. Scammers are constantly coming up with new ways to trick people into giving them their money or personal information.
Since the dawn of the World Wide Web, there have been social engineering scams. These kinds of threat actors connect with their targets directly, and press them to send money or private information by leaning on their sadness, fear, anticipation, etc.
These cyber-threats range from simple, to more targeted and complex; but there are a few recurring themes that come up in very common internet schemes which YOU will likely encounter at some point, if you haven’t already.
Most Common Online Scams Around
Phishing scams attempt to trick you into revealing your personal information, such as passwords, credit card numbers or Social Security numbers. Scammers often send emails or text messages that appear to be from legitimate companies, such as banks, credit card companies, or government agencies. They may also create fake websites that look like real websites.
- Fake shopping websites sell counterfeit products or no products at all. They often have low prices and offer free shipping to attract customers. Once you place an order, you may receive a fake product, no product at all, and your credit card information may be stolen too!
- Romance scams trick people into falling in love with them…and then steal their money. Scammers often create fake profiles on dating websites and social media platforms to gain their victim’s trust; thereafter they’ll ask for information or money, such as to help them with a financial emergency or to pay for travel expenses.
- Fake social media accounts may be entirely made up, or impersonate real people. The catfish behind the fake page may also send spam messages or post links to malicious websites.
- Mobile scams may be vishing (voice phishing, via telephone call), smishing (SMS phishing taking place over text) or other tricks to convince the target to download malware or reveal personal information. They may also create fake apps that look like real apps, but steal your data when you open them.
These are just a few, commonplace ways that cybercriminals will reach out to scam you out of money and information! You should be careful when anyone asks for money, favors and personal information online…especially when you don’t know them in real life.
Other Phishing Scams You Might Encounter
Other common internet scams include:
- Investment scams: Scammers promise investors high returns on their investments, but the investments are actually fake.
- Tech support scams: Scammers call people claiming to be from a tech support company and offer to fix their computers. They may then charge them for unnecessary services or steal their personal information and ghost.
- Lottery and sweepstakes scams: Scammers tell people that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes, but they need to pay a fee to claim their prize.
- Charity scams: Scammers impersonate legitimate charities and ask for donations.
It is important to be aware of the different ways that scammers approach you online, and the ruses they playact when they do it. If you receive an email, text message, or phone call from someone who is asking for your personal information or money, be suspicious. NEVER click on any links or provide any information until you’ve verified the legitimacy of the sender.
Stay safe from all kinds of internet scams!
Be careful about what information you share online. Investigate or report suspicious emails, text messages, websites, and apps that ask for your personal information or money. Do not click on any links or provide any information until you have verified the legitimacy of the sender. Only download apps from trusted app stores, and make sure you’re always keeping programs and softwares up to date, because the newer versions often include security patches that can help protect your devices from malware. You should also be wary of anything that seems too good to be true; as the saying goes, then it probably is.
One of the BEST safety measures that you can take is to use a strong password manager to create and manage unique passwords for all of your online accounts. Programs like BitWarden not only share passwords across all of your logged-in devices, but also create long and unique passwords that are harder to crack!
If you think you have been a victim of an internet scam, report it to the authorities, to your company, and even organization that was impersonated. You should report scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ftc.gov/complaint.