The internet is a double-edged sword. On the one side, it makes much of our lives insanely easy, making it possible for us to connect with loved ones and business partners no matter where they are in the world.
On the other side, it allows internet scams to become very popular in the 21st century.
There are all kinds of threats out there; from malicious software which exploits vulnerabilities in computer systems to clever phishing scams.
To protect yourself, you will need to know the types of scams to look out for and how to avoid them.
There are many, but some are more frequent than others.
types of scam
Also known as Email Scam. This type of scam involves criminals making contact by email as there is no cost to them. The email may look to be from a reputable brand however when one clicks on the email, malicious software(malware) is downloaded onto the computer or another device, allowing the criminal to get financial and personal information for fraudulent purposes.
· Shopping Scams
Criminals set up fake online shopping sites to obtain the payment card details of victims and steal money from their bank accounts. These sites look genuine. It is only when the victim does not receive their goods that they become worried but by then their bank account details have been stolen.
· Payment Card Scams
This type of scam involves the use of stolen or counterfeit payment cards to make purchases.
Refers to a scam where a criminal creates a fake online identity and seeks online relationships. These are most commonly romantic relationships; online dating websites and social networking apps are a common hunting ground for these criminals.
Real life examples
Real-life examples of breaches in security caused via phishing are in the news frequently.
One such example is from a recent breach of a telecommunications firm on the Isle of Man.
Hundreds of current and former employees had their sensitive information, such as bank details, address, etc. stolen in this phishing attack, that is said to have come in through a staff email account.
There are numerous other examples of data breaches in the news, some of these from well-known companies such as Facebook, Google or Netflix, but phishing emails are also commonly directed through university or college emails or from criminals posing as a legitimate, trusted service like a bank.
· Shopping Scams
The BBC reported last year that in the UK a total of £228 million was transferred from personal accounts to a fraudulent account with the customer’s permission.
According to reports, over 80,000 bank customers fell victim to these attacks. Personal accounts were not the only target for these attacks either, with an estimated £70 million being stolen from businesses in payments authorised by staff.
Payment card and online shopping fraud can vary wildly from attack to attack. Criminals can sell stolen or knock-off goods online, or they can be more sophisticated and pretend to be someone that the customer trusts whether that be a solicitor or a builder working on your home.
Catfishing has been a viral phenomenon for several years now with popular TV shows exposing these scammers.
Common examples of this scam involve people creating online accounts and using a fake name, someone else’s pictures and essentially pretending to be them either to form a romantic relationship or in hope of financial gain.
Other cases include people reusing pictures of a famous person, model or another person in the hope that they can elicit illicit images which they can use as blackmail, or that they can convince the victim to purchase goods and send it to them.
Fortunately, there are numerous security measures which we can take to minimise the risk that we fall victim to these scams, by adhering to some common guidelines we can protect ourselves and others.
If you don’t know the sender and you weren’t expecting the message consider it suspicious. Also, double-check the email address the suspicious email was sent from as fake emails often look dodgy. Most phishing emails contain a generic greeting, often legitimate sources will address you quickly.
Never click on a link or attachment from an unknown source. Verify the legitimacy of the email beforehand. Phishing emails will often contain threats or contain a sense of urgency, be extra vigilant of emails requiring you to respond immediately.
Any request within an email or text message for personal information should also be treated with suspicion. A legitimate bank, for example, will never ask for your details in this manner.
· Shopping Scams
Purchase goods from trusted sites only. When purchasing from sites make sure the page is secure (e.g. the address starts with https:// or there is a lock symbol on the browser bar)
Do not enter your personal information if you’re using a public WIFI network or public computer. Keep your anti-virus software up to date.
If you are asked to update your details via email do not click on the email link, instead, go to the company’s website and navigate from there.
Be cautious with any unexpected messages from strangers on the internet, treat these the same way you would from a stranger in person. Control the information you put on facebook, twitter, Instagram, etc. Would you be comfortable with a stranger knowing everything you write?
When it comes to security the best protection is always prevention. It is much more effective to avoid phishing, payment scams, and catfishing than to remediate the effects caused by these.
Criminals know that it is much easier to con someone into sending their money than it is to hack into a bank account and steal the money themselves. So, the accountability lies with ourselves to be vigilant of these scams, so we recommend taking advantage of the above protection recommendations and ensuring your safety online and the safety of others too.