You want to be able to use the internet safely — but in truth, the internet is not a very safe place. However, you can put your worry to good use by learning more about the types of scams used by cybercriminals operating online today.
In this article, I am going to explain various scams that are being carried out by cybercriminals.
By far the most common online scam, phishing involves fake online messages — usually emails — that make requests for users’ information. Often, phishing attempts will dress up their messages to appear as though they come from legitimate sources, like a bank or utility company. To avoid this scam, users should avoid clicking on links in emails and instead navigate independently to key websites to verify claims. Having premium internet security installed on all connected devices can also help protect users from malware that can result from phishing attacks. I have experienced many such scam emails, and I wrote about one here.
Spear-phishing is a more sophisticated type of phishing attack that targets individuals with privileged access, like login credentials to company servers. Many high-profile hackings have only been successful through spear-phishing activity. Employees should be careful to adhere to company cybersecurity policies to avoid falling victim to this type of scam and costing their organization unknowable amounts in data recovery.
Another variation in phishing, smshing requires the use of mobile phone text messaging. Typically, scam SMS messages come utterly unprompted and include suspicious-looking links. As with emails, users should avoid interacting with strange texts and navigate independently to important websites to investigate if necessary.
When buying items online, consumers must trust that the company they are interacting with will send products after payments are made. Unfortunately, not all e-commerce websites are legitimate. Many are merely fronts for a shopping scam, which will take consumers’ money with no intention of sending goods. Users should avoid websites with deals that seem too good to be true — like luxury brands and discount prices — and if one falls victim to a shopping scam, they should notify their credit card provider immediately.
Among the most famous types of scams, Nigerian scams involve a story about a wealthy African person struggling to move their fortune out of their politically fraught country. It should go without saying that the fortune does not exist, and any fees paid by the target will go straight into a scammer’s pocket. The well-known story is usually a large enough red flag to convince most users to disengage and protect themselves from fraud.
Bitcoin and Crypto
Not all cryptocurrency is a scam, but the unfamiliarity of these digital assets causes many users to make poor investment choices. Most often, scammers will convince gullible investors to make an initial investment in a brand-new type of coin that they claim will eclipse Bitcoin in value — but the new cryptocurrency will never be released. Investors can avoid these scams and capitalize on this new type of investment by doing more research about potential coins before committing any money.
Fine Print Scams
Every day, users encounter several instances where they must accept terms of service before they can enjoy a digital experience, like a website or software application. And every day, users accept without reading the fine print. Scammers can and do take advantage of the habit to accept terms without reading them by inserting clauses that allow them to take money from users, install certain malware on their devices or track sensitive data. The best way to avoid this type of scam is to read the fine print — but the most realistic advice is to search for more information about websites or apps to see if anyone else has fallen victim to a related fine print scam.
Fake Debt Assistance
Financial debt is a serious and widespread cause of stress, and many people struggling with large debts will do almost anything to eliminate their burden. Unfortunately, scammers capitalize on the fear and desperation of debtors to steal sensitive information and money that could put those toiling under massive debt in even greater financial peril. The best advice is to work within legal means to clear debts and to avoid promises of assistance that seem too good to be true.
Dating and Romance Scams
One of the more heartbreaking forms of online fraud, these scams take advantage of some users’ loneliness to line scammers’ pockets. Scammers make up personas that encourage online daters to fall in love with them, and then they make requests for money to cover expenses like plane tickets to come visit or hospital bills to manage a chronic disease. Unfortunately, dating and romance scams can persist for years before users realize they are victims.
In truth, it is impossible to list every type of internet scam, as more are invented by scammers every day. By being wary of any messages you receive on the web and using trustworthy security tools as you browse, you should be able to avoid the worst scams in the future.