Cyber scams or cybercrimes are an online act committed by suspects using a computer, smartphone, or other kinds of electronic devices. Once these individuals are successful in gaining access to any of these devices, they then proceed to getting their victim’s private data and information. This illegal activity can occur not only to ordinary citizens but also to different businesses or government organizations.
There are different kinds of Internet scams out there. For example, they can even take a form of a phishing email that includes malicious attachments or URLs. Some hackers may use fake job opportunities as means to get your information or even pretend that you won the lottery. Others can create hoax profiles on dating websites. All of these fraudulent acts end with the victims being taken advantage of or losing their money.
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, also known as IC3, they have received over four million cyber scam complaints since their inception in 2000. In 2019, they reported 467,361 cybercrime complaints and a total loss of $3.5 billion in the U.S. The most common complaints reported to them are phishing, extortion, as well as promises of payments or deliveries.
Cybercrime is a worldwide phenomena. Statista reported that aside from the U.S,, Internet users from India, France, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, and other countries have become regular victims of online scams in 2019. Most of the respondents to this study said that the scams they’ve experienced are due to malware on their devices and unauthorized access to their accounts.
These figures show that cyber-attacks are becoming one of the fastest-growing crimes in the world. Without proper cybersecurity measures, the damage of online scams can bring in further losses. In fact, Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that global cybercrime damages can amount to $6 trillion annually by 2021.
Anyone can fall victim to a cyber scam. But if you are mindful of your online activities, you can prevent succumbing to its security loopholes. Let us show you how to be wise when it comes to identifying a cyber scam.
1. Asks you to share your personal details
One common method of scammers is to lure victims into providing sensitive information. This is what is frequently called Identity Theft. Here, the suspect tries to obtain details from the victim to use for unauthorized purchases or transactions.
To come out of this situation, you need an SSL certificate that assures users that they are dealing with the right business or website. In the case of an eCommerce business or website with unlimited subdomains, a cheap wildcard SSL certificate could be of great help. The certificate ensures users that their data remain private between the user and the server.
Scammers can say that you have won something and you have to provide them with your bank details for you to receive your prize. Some also pretend to be a bank representative informing individuals of a possibility that their account can be locked if they don’t provide the required information. Consider it a red flag if you receive a call or message asking for your personal data.
2. Pressures you to act quickly
Another sign that you probably are dealing with a cyber scam is that if the scammers pressure you to act quickly. Impostors do everything to get you to provide information or send money quickly. Some scammers even pretend to be your family member or to have information about a family member, usually making up emergency stories, just to play with your emotions so you can eventually give in to their request.
These suspects want you to act fast, so that they can get away with their crime as soon as possible. The more time you spend thinking, the higher the chances of you figuring things out. So, if the person from the other line is insisting you take immediate action, most likely it’s a cybercrime waiting to happen.
3. Provides too-good-to-be-true offers
One of the many sneaky tactics of a scammer is using fake deals and offers.
Too-good-to-be-true offers are mostly seen on fake shopping websites offering super low prices. If you fall for that trap, you may end up buying fake or expired items. Some scammers may also offer great business opportunities with get-rich-quick schemes. Even dating websites are a potential place for cybercriminals to prey on their next victim.
Scam offers can sometimes be as enticing as a cake on a plate served on your table. It may look very appealing but upon grabbing a quick bite, you’ll realize that it’s not really cake. Remember that it wouldn’t hurt to be skeptical about things or think matters through before making rash decisions.
4. Conducts unsolicited calls
Are you receiving too many calls lately? There is a high possibility that they are fraudulent. Scammers can contact anyone anywhere on the globe. The callers may act friendly or may try to scare you over the phone. No matter their approach, one thing is for sure, and that is their desire to get your private information or money.
Phone scams can come in many forms. Some will claim that you were selected for a special prize, while others may pretend to be part of law enforcement. Another type of phone scam is a robocall. While it is often associated with telemarketing phone campaigns or public service announcements, cybercriminals can easily use it to conduct a fraudulent act. Even if you don’t fall for the scam upon answering the robocall, chances are your number is already included in the scammer’s list and that you will be called repeatedly until you give in.
How to avoid being scammed
Cybercriminals are clever. Awareness is the key to counteract their wit. Keep in mind these cybersecurity tips on how you can avoid being a cyber scam victim.
Never Share Personal Details
Never share your personal information, unless you’re 100% confident about who you’re dealing with. If you receive an email asking for your details, don’t click on any of the links. Instead, search for the website to verify its authenticity. If you’re dealing with a phone call, ask questions or just tell the caller that you will call back instead. You’ll know if it’s a phone scam if they force you to stay on the other line.
Observe Proper Disposal Methods
Be careful of keeping or disposing of your statements or documents that contain your personal information. Keep them in unreachable storage locations. If you’re going to throw them out, shred them thoroughly in order to eliminate any risk of identity theft.
If you’re going to dispose of an electronic device, make sure that all data is deleted or removed first. Transfer important files to another device. Download applications compatible with your device for secure data deletion.
When you receive a call or message asking you to act on something right away, just pause for a while. Contemplate on the message and listen to your instinct. Don’t be pressured. Instead, ask questions or search online to know whether what is claimed is actually true.
Beware of Attractive Offers
Deals and offers are indeed tempting. However, you have to think twice before agreeing to these. Stick to the old proverb: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Hang Up Immediately
If you suspect that the call you received is a scam, simply hang up and don’t say anything. Red flags to look out for when it comes to an unknown caller are strange conversations or if the caller himself asks unusual questions. It’s simply better not to engage.
Also, when asked a question answerable by yes or no, choose to respond with another question. Scammers can record your voice and a simple “yes” on the phone line can be used for fraudulent activities.
It is advisable to add your number to the National Do Not Call Registry. This is so that companies who can legally make sales calls can avoid calling your number. Adding your number to this registry will help you filter calls and tell which are a scam and which are not.
Additionally, maximize your phone’s call blocking system. If your phone doesn’t have any related built-in features, you can download similar applications instead. Some are free, while others may require you to pay a minimum fee. These apps can help prevent you from answering illegal or unwanted calls. Depending on your application settings, calls flagged as scams can be stopped automatically, ring silently, or just go straight to your voicemail.
Use a Security Software
Scammers are successful in hacking into a victim’s device because of a lack of security software. Such programs are created to prevent a user from entering a fake website or screen phishing email messages. Just make sure that the software is constantly updated.
While you’re at it, check your anti-spyware and firewall settings. A firewall can block malicious attacks targeting your device. On the other hand, an anti-spyware scans all files you download from the Internet. If the program detects something, it can give you a warning and prevent any damage to your device.
Choose Strong Passwords
Hackers can easily get into emails or social media accounts if the password is too simple. The solution is to use a complicated password instead. Use punctuations or symbols or perhaps a favorite phrase.
Passwords should also be different for each site. Remembering passwords can be a bit tedious, but it’s for your own benefit. If you have trouble creating a new password or keeping them, a password manager program can help.
In the digital age, cybercrime is and has always been a global issue. While officials strive to mitigate the problem, the statistics of these Internet scams continue to rise every year. To avoid becoming a victim, we have to follow cybersecurity protocols. Being wise, informed and proactive can truly keep cyber scams at bay.
Learn more about how to stay safe in the cyberworld from our other informative blogs!