Did you know that online scams are still alive and well and cost victims thousands of dollars? In fact, in 2020 the FBI Cybercrime Compliance Center (IC3) received a record 791,790 complaints of online fraud with a reported loss of $ 4.1 billion. A Cybercrime victim can be anyone, but the elderly are at a greater risk. According to IC3, 40% of cybercrime victims are over 50 years old.
Unfortunately, this group also reported the largest number of victims losing more than $100,000. We don’t expect you or your loved ones to disconnect from the internet, but we urge you to stay safe online. The first step is educating yourself on the types of online scams and methods they use. So, let’s jump in and find out about common online scams and preventative measures you can take to stay protected.
Most Common Types of Online Scams
1. Email Phishing Scams
Phishing attacks come in many shapes and sizes. One example that is very common, a scammer may tell you that you will be fined heavily by the IRS or they may tell you that someone else hacked your account, but all of them will tell you that you should provide your sensitive information right away. In essence, all they are trying to do is create a sense of urgency so that you can succumb to them without thinking. Various forms of phishing can make it difficult to fully protect yourself. The best defense is to control who is requesting your information. If it’s from someone you know who feels weird, give it a call to see if they really sent it, and if in doubt, don’t click on it. If you accidentally clicked or downloaded a suspicious file you can learn how to remove a virus on your device to potentially protect yourself before more damage is done.
2. Shopping Scams
It is actually difficult to prevent this particular type of scam as it is random. Basically, these scams are companies that pretend to sell you products that they don’t even plan on sending you. Additionally, you may receive a confirmation email after payment and you will surely be billed, but the product will never reach you. These scams can sometimes reach you through social media or via email, but they always lead you to a third-party ecommerce store. They often offer luxury items at very low prices (red flag) and usually require payment via PayPal or any online payments provider. If you are lucky, you can only lose the designated money for the purchase in the worst case scenario. Unfortunately, if you do accidentally provide your credit card information, the more likely those who started the scam will try to use it for further purchases.
3. Cryptocurrencies Scams
The most popular cryptocurrency is of course – Bitcoin and it has conquered the world. These currencies are attractive, exciting and often very valuable. However, few people really understand how these things work, and cyber criminals are more than willing to use this ignorance to steal from you, or worse, steal all of your personal information. Most of these scams encourage you to make an initial investment in a company that is going to apply for an ICO. For your money, you get an interest in the company and, as hackers claim, it makes you rich. Sometimes these companies do actually exist, but the coins or tokens they sell are worthless or high risk. Most of the time these companies are fake and your payments won’t get you anywhere. And when you do, anyone who calls you will have your information that they can use to steal more from you.
How to Protect Yourself From These Scams?
Even if you know all these scams well, new instances appear every day and we cannot be kept informed of the latest threats. This is why it is important to learn how to stay safe. This doesn’t mean you’ll have a guarantee of being scam-free, but it certainly does increase your chances of preventing a fraud disaster. Here are some quick tips to help you stay safe:
1. Install an Antivirus Protection Software
As long as computers have been in existence, whether being online or offline there will always be a necessity for antivirus software. Experts are often saying that antivirus software needs to be your first line of defense when browsing online. Having a reliable protection tool to safeguard you from malicious attacks ensures a more safer experience across the board. Although not every computer hack is designed to corrupt or steal valuable information, it does not mean the attack is harmless. Sometimes hackers are looking to infiltrate your PC to search for vulnerabilities that they can capitalize on some time in the future.
2. Guard Your Private Information
It’s true that we live in a world where the lines of privacy are blurring, but your digital identity is valuable and difficult to access. Only pass on your personal data when necessary and only to companies and organizations that you know and trust. You don’t go out on the street or give strangers a driver’s license or bank account number, do you? Of course not, so use the same sense of logic when you’re online.
3. When In Doubt, Don’t Click
If you receive a suspicious email or text message or a pop-up window, just don’t click. The potential reward is not worth the huge risk. Spend time researching the authenticity so you can avoid a disaster. If this ultimately translates to replying to a friend or colleague a little later, it’s worth the wait.
4. Verify Contact Information
If the email address or a phone contact posted on a website that contacted you doesn’t work, there’s a great chance you’re dealing with a scam. A simple 5 minute background check on the website that contacted you can save you hundreds of $ and your valuable information.
As you can see, scams are happening all over the internet. They come in all shapes and sizes, and the damage they can do varies from a few dollars to a full blown identity theft. However, if you take the time to educate yourself about scams, you can create a watchful eye protecting you from anything that could harm you so that you can use the internet as a huge resource for information and enjoy the entertainment it provides safely.