How to Avoid Online Scams
What Are Internet Scams?
Internet scams are different methodologies of Fraud, facilitated by cybercriminals on the Internet. Scams can happen in a myriad of ways- via phishing emails, social media, SMS messages on your mobile phone, fake tech support phone calls, scareware and more. The main purpose of these types of scams can range from credit card theft, capturing user login and password credentials and even identity theft.
Most Common Types of Online Scams
The top online scam today is Phishing. Internet thieves prey on unsuspecting users by sending out phishing emails. In these emails, a cybercriminal tries to trick you into believing you are logging into a trusted website that you normally do business with. This could be a bank, your social media account, an online shopping website, shipping companies, cloud storage companies and more.
Another type of popular phishing scam is the Nigerian Prince, or 419 scam. These are phishing emails in which you’re asked to help bring large sums of money into the country, cash phony money orders or wire money to the thief. The trick is that the scammer first asks you for a small fee because the larger sum of money is “tied up” whether it be in wire transfer fees, processing fees or some other tall tale.
One close to our industry is fake security software, which is also known as scareware. These start with a pop up warning saying that you have a virus. Then the popup leads the user to believe that if they click on the link, the infection will get cleaned up.Cybercriminals use the promise of “Free Anti-Virus” to instead implant malware on a victim’s device.
Social Media Scams
Social media scams are a variety of posts you will see in your news feeds- all with the goal of getting you to click on a link that could potentially be hosting malware.
Mobile scams can come in many forms, but the most common are phishing apps. These apps are designed to look like the real thing, just like phishing emails. It is exactly the same premise, however, instead of emails, the malware is passed through a fake app.
Social Engineering Scams
Social engineering is a way that cybercriminals use human-to-human interaction in order to get the user to divulge sensitive information. Since social engineering is based on human nature and emotional reactions, there are many ways that attackers can try to trick you- online and offline.
Romance Scams Targeted at Women
Words with Friends
As we gear up to celebrate International Women’s Day 2020 in Australia, Scamwatch has already been alerted to 376 reports of online dating and romance scams – 76.1% of those victims being female 1. When it comes to Australian women’s cyber safety and security, scammers and their tactics have evolved over the years.
Apart from traditional online platforms such as Plenty of Fish and Tinder, online games have had their fair share of unwanted attention. The infamous Words with Friends romance scam, created by games developer Zynga, was one of the latest online mobile games to be targeted by scammers 2.
The love scam consisted of fake profiles of divorced or widowed men that, strangely enough, worked on oil rigs. They would strike up a conversation with their targeted female victims such as commenting on a word being played with sexual innuendos or complimenting the players’ intelligence.
By tugging at the heartstrings, one scammer managed to con an Australian elderly woman out of a devastating $30, 000 3. However, the tactics these scammers use still resonate with the same tell-tale signs:
- They are quick to ‘profess’ their love within mere days.
- They communicate with poor English spelling and grammar.
- They come on strong and are unrelenting.
Plenty of Fish
Apart from Tinder, Plenty of Fish was one of the most used dating apps in Australia 2019 with scammers managing to con over $714, 000 out of the Australian public 4. Scammers used some of the oldest tricks in the book, such as creating fake online dating profiles to string their victims along. They would use exaggerated romantic language and showered their victims with amorous compliments and affection – until needing money.
Australian women also were conned by scammers on Plenty of Fish by trying to initiate a video chat. As the popular online dating app doesn’t feature the ability for video chat, fake profiles would send their victims an external link requesting them to ‘sign up’ for the new Plenty of Fish video chat feature.
Upon clicking the link, users would be sent to a third-party website resembling the appearance of the Plenty of Fish website, only to become bombarded with demands for their credit card information.
To ensure your cyber safety and security is protected online this International Women’s Day, below are the most common types of online scams and how they operate:
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Social engineering scams on social media
Nobody likes being manipulated—and that’s exactly what happens to people when they fall victim to social engineering scams online. In addition to using more sophisticated malware, ransomware, and viruses, online criminals have become increasingly aware of the use and power psychology plays in weaving believable online fiction.
How to protect against phishing scams
Phishing is an online con game, and phishers are nothing more than tech-savvy con artists. In a typical phishing scam, phishers send out emails, which appear to come from a legitimate company, in an attempt to scam users into providing private information that will be used for identity theft.
Teach your kids to avoid online scams
Surfing the Internet means possible exposure to online scams, something your children might not have any concept of. If you’re allowing them to go online, it’s imperative that you discuss online scams. Such scams come in a variety of guises, including those that specifically target children.
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Thanks to the Internet, booking travel online is simple. But as your ideas of a spring break or summer vacation take shape, remember to be cautious when making reservations online.
1. “Scam statistics” scamwatch.gov.au, March 2019.
2. “Romance scammers move to new apps, costing Aussies more than $28.6 million” accc.gov.au, February 9, 2019.
3. “Romance scammers prey on Words With Friends players” The Sydney Morning Herald, August 2, 2018.
4. “Romance scammers move to new apps, costing Aussies more than $28.6 million” accc.gov.au, February 9, 2019.