Cyber threats are continuously evolving with time, and we see a new kind of threat every other day. Scamming is one of the threats that has become an increasingly common and problematic issue. Avoiding these threats while navigating the web can be a challenging task.
While continuous digitization has made our lives convenient, it has also made us vulnerable to numerous cyber threats. These threats are in our emails, the websites we visit, and even our social media accounts. They can not only cost you your money and reputation, but they are also detrimental to your mental health. In 2019 alone, the FBI documented victims losing a record $3.5 billion due to these threats and scams. For safety, staying offline is not a solution. You can take proactive measures by familiarizing yourself with the most common scams.
Most Common Online Scams
Social Media Scams
In this increasingly connected world, almost everyone has a social media account. Social media platforms are specially designed to connect people all over the world. However, scammers take this connectivity as an opportunity, and as a result, identity and financial thefts are rampant issues with these platforms.
Social media scams have many forms. The most common tactic of scammers is to spread malware through your account by posting links on your timelines or sending them via direct messages. This malware can steal your personal information from your computer. Another common tactic of these scammers is pretending to be an authority figure. They use this confidence scheme to gain your trust so they can access your personal information.
How to Avoid Social Media Scams?
- Adjust your privacy settings and limit your content to your friends only.
- Don’t share your personal information on social media.
- Make it a habit to read social media platforms’ terms
- Create strong passwords by using a combination of characters, numbers, special characters, etc.
- Make it a habit to log out after using a social media site
Online Shopping Scams
It is a challenge to avoid online shopping scams because they are random. Scammers use the anonymous nature of the internet to swindle online shoppers. They use genuine-looking fake companies and websites to pretend to sell luxury items at very low prices. They even send you a confirmation email after the payment. However, sometimes they send you fake products, other times, the products never arrive.
One common thing about shopping scams is that they always ask you to pay using a preloaded money card, wire transfer, or money order. Many online shopping scammers use social media platforms to set up their fake online stores. They use these platforms to exploit online shoppers, advertise their websites, and after making some profit, they disappear.
How to Avoid Online Shopping Scams?
- Always look for customer reviews
- Look at the offered products’ features, it’s a scam if they sound too good to be true
- Avoid purchasing if the other party demands instant payment through wire service or electronic funds transfer
- Search whether the products are being sold somewhere else as well
- Avoid very new social media stores selling products at very low prices
- Avoid purchasing if the seller doesn’t allow payment through a secure payment service like PayPal
Phishing is the most common form of scam. Cybercriminals use phishing to access your personal information. It is usually done through emails where a scammer masquerades as a trusted entity. The scammers then trick the recipients into clicking a link that spreads malware to your system. Phishing can lead to identity theft, unauthorized purchases, and more.
Another form of phishing is spear-phishing, often used to gain access to a corporate or governmental network. Scammers use the employees to avoid security parameters and gain access to the data. Phishing can become a huge security incident, leading to reputation and financial losses for an organization.
How to Avoid Phishing?
- Always pay attention to the details as a phishing email always has subtle mistakes. These mistakes can include fake domain names and spelling mistakes.
- Avoid clicking suspicious links
- Corporations should employ Two-Factor Authentication (2FA).
Romance & Dating Scams
Dating and romance scam is another form of social media scams. Cybercriminals exploit the human psyche to either gain access to your information or ask you for money. These scammers create fake social media or online dating accounts to build a relationship with unsuspecting people. After some time, they take advantage of your feelings and start asking for money.
According to statistics, 1 out of 10 newly created online dating profiles is fake. In 2018 alone, online scammers used dating scams to swindle $143 million from Americans. This proves how common these dating scams are.
How to Avoid Romance & Dating Scams?
- There are many red flags when it comes to dating scams. You have to pay attention to the behavior. A scammer will:
- Proclaim to be in love with you without knowing anything about you.
- I will continuously make promises to meet you but will never do so
- Ask you to cover their bills or send money using a wire service
This is also one of the most common scams. Scammers use emails, social media, text messages, and pop-up ads to tell you how you have won a lottery. However, they ask you to share personal information if you want to claim your prize.
Scammers use the latest technology to create genuine-looking checks. They even use the real companies’ names without their knowledge.
How to Avoid Fake Lottery Scams?
- Pay attention to the details
- Verify the sender before entering your personal information
- Always remember that there is no valid reason for someone to give you money for free. It is most likely a scam
Companies and governments are constantly taking measures to ramp up cyber security. The best internet providers are those that are constantly taking initiatives to improve cyber security. Spectrum is also one of those companies, as it offers secure internet with a free Security Suite app along with all Spectrum internet plans.
Online scams are frauds facilitated by cybercriminals in a myriad of ways. As these scams continuously evolve, it is a challenge to keep up with them. However, some vigilance and general knowledge about the most common scams can make your online experience more secure.