We are all vulnerable to cyber scams -You don’t have to be greedy to be a victim. But if you understand how it works, you are more likely to avoid being scammed.
Cybercriminals exploit human and technical weaknesses. Sometimes it is more than just spam messages. They can build trust and credibility with their targets via phones and emails – which we have grown to adore and trust so much.
With online tools such as Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIPs), anyone can create copycat phone numbers and make a call or message seem legit. Such calls/messages can appear to come from an established authority such as a shipping company, your bank officer, your business partner, or a friend. You know: 91% of cyber-attacks start with an email.
We get such messages or calls at least weekly. Most of us hang up, ignore or delete them. Sometimes, others aren’t so lucky. Even Google and Facebook have been tricked into wiring millions because they fell for fraudulent invoices that seemed to come from a company they work with.
Know the Common Types of Cyber Scams and Tips to Stay Safe:
1. Anti-virus or software support scam: Those emails or pop-up windows that appear to be from a big company, e.g. Microsoft, claiming that your computer is infected with a virus, and it can be resolved for a fee. Sometimes, they ask for remote access to your computer to run diagnostic tests.
Tip: Never give control of your computer to someone that randomly calls/emails you. You can call your software company on your own if you feel there is a problem with your computer.
2. Phishing: Those calls/messages impersonating a trustworthy entity, such as your bank or loan company, intended to trick victims into providing personal information, bank details and passwords.
Tip: Never give out your personal information online or over the phone without verification, even if you think it is important/urgent. You can't rely on caller ID to know if a caller is legit.
3. Identity Theft: Identity thieves get access to your personal information (e.g., Social bank account information, ID, and debit card numbers) to steal from or impersonate you.
Tip: Be mindful of where you input your personal info & debit card details online -those without a secure payment method. Also, avoid automatic storing of your bank username and passwords.
4. Employment scam: Have you ever seen those job postings that adverstise “Work from home. Flexible schedule. No experience needed.” Most times, those are scams. They hire victims for an online job, and latter send a cheque asking them to use the funds for employment expenses for the company. While waiting for the check to clear, victims begin to spend out of personal pocket on the job, only to realize the check has bounced.
Tip: Remember, don’t spend off your money in anticipation of funds from a cheque deposited into your account, until the check officially clears --even if it takes weeks.
5. Advanced fee scam: e.g. emails or calls asking you to pay an upfront fee for a service like an advanced loan, inheritance, investment, lottery or new bank card etc.
Tip: Simple, don’t respond to offers such as loan or lotteries that you didn’t apply for.
6. Emergency scam e.g. a call/message asking you to send money for a friend/family member in urgent need, perhaps, for medical treatment. Sometimes it comes from an unknown person, but sometimes they hack into a familiar person’s account to do that.
Tip: Try to verify the true state of things before making any transfers, no matter the urgency – except you don’t mind losing that money.
7. Rental Property or Business scam: You send money for deposit on a property or online business, and never receive access to the property or goods.
Tip: Where possible, always visit the property or business location, and/or verify from an independent 2nd source before payment. Be suspicious of online businesses without a verified street address.
8. SMS/Smishing: Beware of messages asking you to click on a link, taking you to a compromised site, to get you to divulge personal information. Sometimes, the link puts malicious code or software onto your computer.
Tip: Avoid clicking on unknown links for offers, or links asking you to opt-out of services you never subscribed to.
9. Other cyber scams: Relationship scam, Charity scam, Ponzi scheme, and some cryptocurrency scams.
Finally & Importantly!!! Report any scam to appropriate government agency in your country (every country has one) or report to the private company the scammer is claiming to be. This can help them stop the fraud from affecting other people, or affecting you again.
Video credit: Emirates NDB, Government of Dubai, and Dubai Police