Scams are nothing new, with the first-ever recorded instance of fraud dating back to as early as 300 BC. While it is a common enough occurrence throughout history, the advent of technology and the Internet has made it more insidious, widespread, and financially catastrophic. Canadians lost at least $130 million to various scams in 2019 and approximately $1.2 million to COVID-19 scams alone within the first quarter of 2020.
From phishing to fake business transactions, these types of online scams prey on unsuspecting individuals and take advantage of their generosity and fear. If neglected, scammers can easily target your personal computer or mobile device and gather enough information to gain an advantage.
Combating online scams is a matter of knowledge and awareness. Here is a list of top scams you need to watch out for:
Phishing is one of the most widespread and frequently used online scams. It is a catch-all term for scammers who pretend to be an important or trusted entity, such as a banker, service provider, or a mortgage company. The end goal is to trick the victim into handing their password and other sensitive information, like credit card or social insurance numbers, to professional-looking emails and transactions.
They also utilize familiarity. Scammers can use your friends’ pictures from social media and create duplicate accounts to draw information by pretending to be someone you know.
When you receive an email or notification from suspicious origins, do not click on any provided links. Doing so will make your computer or personal data vulnerable. Also, even if the sender seems legitimate, never provide your password and private details. Reputable institutions never ask for these online.
2. 419 Fraud
The 419 Fraud is more popularly known as the “Nigerian Letter Scam.” It is one of the oldest scams online, and you have probably received one of these messages at some point. The email is simple. It contains a message from a Nigerian prince or an investor, offering you a lucrative opportunity. The catch is you have to pay a small amount upfront or provide bank information details before a transfer can be made.
While it is not the most sophisticated technique, the 419 Fraud continues to ensnare people across the world. A study shows that these scams still rake in over $700,000 every year.
According to Dr. Frank McAndrew, a social psychologist and professor, what makes this scam so successful is that it preys on people’s greed and desire to gain financial profit without much effort.
The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to simply recognize what they are. Never engage with emails that ask for your personal information, especially those coming from unknown senders.
Ransomware is an insidious kind of online scam. Hackers install malware on your computer, restricting access to your files. In return, you are made to pay a hefty amount to undo it. Ransomware is 21st-century blackmailing. Scammers may even attack and extort from large yet vulnerable institutions like schools and hospitals.
Fake ransomware is just as damaging. Attackers can claim they have attacked your devices to exploit your sense of security and privacy. An example of this is when scammers email you to say they have hacked your webcam, and you have to pay them to secure the footage.
A few tips to prevent yourself from ransomware attacks:
- Avoid clicking on unverified links in your emails or unfamiliar websites
- Do not open untrusted email attachments
- Only download software or media files from websites you trust
- Never use storage devices if you do not know where they came from
4. Fake Tech Support
Scammers pretending to be tech support is currently the biggest consumer scam on the Internet. Microsoft estimates that 3.3 million people per year are victimized by this at an annual cost of $1.5 billion.
One tactic involves a call from a person pretending to be a representative of Microsoft, Apple, or a software company, claiming they have detected viruses on your computer. Another tactic is posting advertisements, email, or pop-ups on a certain website, warning you that your computer may be infected with a bug or virus.
Once you return their call or click their link, they will redirect you to a site. By doing so, you are unwittingly allowing them to install malware that can limit your access to your files or steal your username and password and hold them for ransom.
If you ever encounter this, hang up the phone immediately. Microsoft, Apple, and other legitimate companies do not make unsolicited calls. Likewise, never click any unsolicited link or advertisement promising to make your computer safer and faster.
5. Ticket Fraud
Another type of online scam, which commonly targets millennials, is ticket fraud. In this case, scammers trick consumers into purchasing fake tickets for sports competitions, concerts, and other high-profile events. They usually target events that can easily sell out to profit from the increased demand. The tickets or passes they sell to customers often contain forged bar codes or are copies of legitimate tickets. Sometimes buyers won’t get any tickets at all after paying.
To take precaution from these scams, it is best to buy from accredited outlets. The ticket line may be longer, but it is a much safer transaction.
6. Fake Collection
Scammers can also pretend to be tax or debt collectors to harass victims to pay something they don’t actually owe. Someone claiming to be from the tax revenue agency or a debt collector either calls or leaves a message saying that you have an unpaid balance and that legal action will be taken unless funds are wired immediately.
If this happens, do not return the message. If you are worried about unpaid debts, call the organization directly.
7. Fake Charity
While most of the scams exploit people’s fear and sense of privacy, this type of scam cashes in on people’s generosity. For instance, after a calamity, fraudsters can act as aid organizations mounting a disaster relief operation. By thinking that you are donating, they are actually conning you into providing your credit card or e-payment information.
Another form of fake charity is called crowdsourced scamming. People or organizations can fake a sob story to put up a GoFundMe page where they can swindle thousands of dollars out of sympathetic supporters.
It is best to only donate to an organization that you trust. Many legitimate groups are also registered with the government, so investigate first. Ask them questions to gather more details.
8. Pre-Approved Notice
You may receive a letter coming from either your credit card or your bank indicating that you have been pre-approved for a loan. The catch, however, is that you have to pay a fee upfront. The victims of this scam are mostly financially constrained individuals who are enticed by the promises of instant approval and expanded credit limits.
While credit card companies do charge annual fees, they would never ask you to pay at sign-up. Banks also don’t have access to your credit rating and will not pre-approve you voluntarily.
Typosquatting is relatively new. Typosquatting scammers take advantage of your keyboard fumbles to trick you into downloading malware into your computer. If you mistype “amazon.com”, for instance, and key in “amazon.cm”, this may lead you to some dodgy website.
Security researchers have listed 319 websites set up to display ads and promote scams. If you click on one of their ads, malicious codes can be installed on to your device, meddling with your activities and displaying annoying advertisements or online surveys to generate revenue.
10. Fake Free Wi-Fi
The Free Wi-Fi scam is probably one of the latest scamming formats. With access to the Internet now a necessity, scammers can set up a wireless hotspot to steal your information.
What usually happens is this: you go to a seemingly innocuous location, like a café, to connect to the internet. You see one that is named “Free Wi-Fi” or similar and connect to it, thinking it may belong to the café or some other legitimate source. Unfortunately, this gives scammers access to your device.
While you can still use the Internet using such a connection, all your activity goes through the scammer’s own device, allowing them to see everything you do and type online — including your username and password. If you’ve allowed file sharing in your PC, the attacker can also access your files and add malware.
Next time, always ask a staff member for their official Wi-Fi. Don’t just connect to any hotspot just because it’s free.
With online scams becoming more advanced, it is equally important that you also equip yourself with cybersecurity measures to keep your business free from breaches and ransomware attacks.
BSC Solutions Group Ltd is a trusted provider of cybersecurity solutions to keep your devices and corporate network safe from cyber attacks. To book a free consultation, call us at 1-800-958-2341.