This article explores cybercrime in depth so that you know exactly what threats you need to protect yourself against to stay safe online. We discuss:
What is an online scam and who are scammers?
Examples of What exactly counts as a Scam or cybercrime.
Common types of scams
How can I protect myself against Scams/cybercrime?
I think I have been scammed, what do I do?
The act of scamming has, of course, existed in various shapes and sizes for many, many years. However, this digital generation has given a new phase to even this age-old scheme, expanding the opportunities widely, and particularly the number of potential targets, for scammers.
The importance of this digital world is manifold, but so are the risks too– including the risk of falling victim to a scam. The internet offers a wide world of benefits - Making swift sending and receiving information easier than it has ever been. But like most things in life, the internet is also not perfect.
Cybercrime, for the foreseeable future at least, appears to be here to stay; this means we have to remain vigilant when it comes to anything with the potential of it being fraudulent that could lead to our finances, personal data, and identities becoming compromised. With the urge to make cash swiftly and easily as possible, numerous victims fall into the scam daily. Now to the BIG question.
What is an Online Scam?
An online scam is a dishonest/defrauding/tricky scheme and technology carried out over the internet by cybercriminals. With its motive centered on defrauding potential victims and generating financial gain for the perpetrator using these tricky schemes.
Cyber-criminals are deceptive internet users that use the internet to try to steal your information or cajole you to meet up with their financial demands. Often this involves scams called ‘phishing’ and ‘spoofing’. Most scammers are after your bank account details, though some might also install malware on your computer. The concept of internet fraud first caught public attention in the mid-1990s, when reports about the use of stolen credit cards with celebrity names emerged.
These perpetrators use deceptive methods such as phishing emails, fake websites, fake Ids, and malicious software and even go as far as emotional blackmail to gain access to their victims’ data, files, and personal information. However, they may steal their victims’ credit card data and Social Security numbers, access their bank accounts and medical records or even trick them into willingly giving them their money.
Notwithstanding, some major cybersecurity advancements that have been developed in recent years, statistics show that online fraud has experienced a huge increment in the social media age. According to data in 2017, internet scams have reached a record with more than 45,000 reported cases in the United States alone. Wow!! Comparably, almost 7,000 Australians were victims of online shopping scams in 2017, which cost them just under $1 million (A$ 1.38 million).
Globally, online scams have so far cost businesses and individuals more than $100 billion. Since the innovation of the internet, there have also been scammers hoping to trick inexperienced users into sharing their sensitive information. With the subsequent boom in e-commerce, online scammers became craftier and started setting up fake shopping and auction websites that looked just like the real thing to target unsuspecting shoppers. Keep in mind that if something seems too good to be true, it generally is.
What exactly counts as a Scam or cybercrime?
Examples of different types of cybercrime attacks used by cybercriminals include;
Email and internet fraud.
Identity fraud (where personal information is stolen and used).
Theft of financial or card payment data.
Theft and sale of corporate data
Cyber-extortion (demanding money to prevent a threatened attack) amongst others.
Common Types of Scam or cybercrimes?
There are numerous types of scams or cybercrime, which include;
Accommodation scams - You are asked to pay a deposit by bank transfer to secure a house or apartment from a fake accommodation site.
Antivirus software scams - You get an email or phone call from a company that says your computer has a virus and they can repair it by installing software, but they take over your computer. The software allows them to access your personal information, or they insist you pay them before they return the controls of your computer or files to you.
Charity scams - Someone asks you to donate to a fake charity or pretends to be from a real charity.
Classified scams - Scammers posing as legitimate sellers on classified websites trick you into payment for fake goods or services.
Copycat websites - Websites offering services from Government departments or local government but are not official sites, that promise to make a process faster or easier for an excessive price.
Door-to-door scams - Someone knocks on your door and offers you a product or service, convincing you to pay cash up-front for a service that is never provided.
Investment scams amongst others.
So, now you understand the threat cybercrime/online scams represents, Great! what are the best ways to protect your computer and your data? Below are tips on
How Can I protect myself against Cybercrime?
Avoid Giving out personal information unless it is secure
It is important to be very careful about what you do and how you behave on the internet. When it comes to online scams, however-For one, you should never share your credit card details or any other personal information in emails or private messages on social media (only when secured).
For additional safety purchase products from trusted e-commerce sites with HTTPS certificates and data encryption. Installation of antivirus software is of high importance this is because, while some scammers may only be after your credit card or bank account info, others could infect your computer with spyware or some other type of malicious software to monitor your activity and steal your personal information. For extra protection, make sure to update your antivirus program and virus definitions regularly.
Never open attachments in spam emails
Be careful of offers that seem too good to be truly sent to your emails, message boxes, etc. Always be suspicious when messages are on spam. Check where a link is going before you click on it by hovering over it. Do not let anyone remotely access your computer. Check every website is secure by looking for a closed security padlock symbol in the browser window bar (where the website address is located). Watch out for spelling or grammatical mistakes which are a sign of scams. Be suspicious of any discount offered for paying by bank transfer.
If you get an attachment you weren’t expecting, don’t open it. Instead reach out to the sender, preferably via a different method like a text message or phone call, and confirm that the attachment is genuine before you open it. Stop Responding to emails/attachments sent to you from unknown addresses, and also don’t click on any links or attachments they may be unauthorized. When you receive emails containing unauthorized content (i.e. killer scam and advance fee scam emails), you should report them either to the Security personnel.
Contact companies directly about suspicious requests
Suspicious requests such as friend requests, suspicious calls, and text messages should be avoided. If you get asked for data or personal information from a company that has called you, hang up. Call them back using the number on their official website to ensure you are speaking to them and not a FRAUDSTER. Ideally, use a different phone because cybercriminals can hold the line open. When you think you’ve re-dialed, they can pretend to be from the bank or other organization that you think you’re speaking to.
Keep an eye on your bank statements
Keep an eye on your bank statements and any unfamiliar transactions with the bank queried. The bank can investigate whether they are fraudulent. These tips should help you avoid falling foul of cybercrime. However, if all else fails, spotting that you have become a victim of cybercrime quickly is important.
Be mindful of which website URLs you visit
Keep an eye on the URLs you are clicking on. Questions you should ask. Are they legitimate? Are they authenticated links or websites? Avoid clicking on links that may seem unfamiliar or spam-looking. Hence, before carrying out financial transactions online If your internet security product includes functionality to secure online transactions, ensure it is enabled. Now you understand the threat of cybercrime, protect yourself from it.
I think I have been scammed
If you think you have been a victim of a scam, take the following steps:
Stop all contact with the scammer immediately
Stop sending any more payments
If you paid by credit or debit card, tell your bank or card provider immediately as soon as possible
Gather any records you have about the scam (such as emails or other communications)
Protect your devices by resetting your passwords and updating your anti-virus software
Report the incident to consumer protection agencies (see ‘More information below for contact details), for advice and to help prevent other people from being caught in the same scam.
Educating our loved ones such as aged parents, children, and siblings about these common online scams, and encourage them to tell you if they think they’re being scammed. Whether they are being scammed or have narrowly missed being scammed, recommend reputable antivirus software for their use and protection when the need arises.
Particularly the aged ones and Kids, make them aware of these and other potential online dangers before they encounter them. With your friends and family properly warned and informed, you can rest at ease knowing the people you care about are cared for.