Three Different Kinds of Online Scams
There are countless ways and endless criminals online looking to steal your personal information or gain access to your financial accounts. Being able to identify the most common types of online scams and the tactics used by scammers to gain the information they seek is the first step in defending against it. Refraining from being greedy online and not accepting enticing offers that seem too good to be true will save you from being scammed in the long run. Always be skeptical while shopping online or inputting your personal information in forms and over email. The more you know about the topic, the better off you will be. Some of the most common practices amongst cyber-attackers include identity theft, computer virus scams, online fraud, and Nigerian letter scams.
Every year, millions are stolen from victims because of online fraud alone. Whatever your habits on the Internet, there is likely a way that your data could be breached and used against you.
Phishing is one instance used by hackers to infect a computer. This method is fulfilled by sending emails acting like a reputable company in hopes that the victim thinks it is an authentic email and gives away their private information on a dangerous website.
While signing up for a website, especially one that will hold sensitive information, it is important to be sure that your password is going to give you good security to your data and identity safe. Strong passwords feature various elements that keep them secure such as using a variety of upper and lowercase letters, punctuation, and keeping it at an appropriate length (over 12 characters a good standard to follow). Also, avoid using common words. A random combination, or remembering a sentence, and then using the first letter of each word in the sentence is a good way to construct safe, secure passwords.
Online Fraud is particularly dangerous at a school or university, workplace, and overall anywhere that a plentiful number of individuals are sharing the same network. If even one person opens a malicious source, there is a chance that it could be spread to each user connected to the network. The business or institution itself could also be targeted. Companies that typically use wire transfer payments can be duped into believing their transfer is going where it needs to be, but a hacker could be conducting unauthorized transfers on their behalf.
1. Identity Theft
Identity Theft can occur any time that your personal information is accessed or used by someone other than yourself. This could take many forms. The perpetrator could be after several different aspects of your personal information. Your name and address, financial services such as a debit or credit card, social security number, or information for various confidential accounts could all be of interest to an Internet scammer.
Although you yourself did not authorize purchases or changes to your account if it has been breached by an intruder, you may still be stuck with the damages and costs that they have caused. You are at risk to lose money in your accounts, damage your credit score, and lose overall confidence in keeping your accounts secure.
More than financial trouble, an identity thief could use your information to pose as you if they get in legal trouble. Tarnishing your name could cause great trouble and difficulty trying to prove your innocence, or gain medical care and other insurance related areas of interest on your behalf.
A thief can use many tactics to gain the kind of information beneficial to their purposes. While trying to protect yourself from identity theft, consider these several ways that perpetrators use to gain access to your information and accounts:
- Use deceptive tactics through online means such as e-mail, social media, or malicious websites.
- Rifle through your trash in search of old checks, secure information, or other documents of interest that could give them the data they need, or artifacts that will help them discover those answers.
- Steal your personal information through a business or office you frequent.
- Steal your personal belongings such as a purse or wallet and take or copy belongings such as a credit card or license.
To identify if someone has stolen your identity, you should be practice being observant of your financial statements and check to make sure everything is in order and not out of the norm. When looking at your statement, be mindful of purchases you do not recall making and withdrawals you did not authorize. You should also be checking your email accounts to make sure you are still receiving your statements over mail and are not getting any notifications of potentially fraudulent activity on your accounts. Finally, make sure you check your credit report from time to time to make sure that the only information listed is your own and that your score is an accurate reflection of your own behavior on your accounts.
Outside of the cyber world, be sure to shred documents that contain personal information instead of throwing them away. “Out of sight out of mind” isn’t a good way of thought pertaining to online security. The papers you do need that contain sensitive information should be stored in a safe location. Make sure you take mail out of your mail box as often as you can from the point when it has been delivered. Another common mistake is entering private information on a public server such as a library or coffee shop.
2. Computer Virus Crimes
Computer crimes can take many malicious forms. Viruses are used to infiltrate your computer or cell phone to monitor your behavior and steal personal information or gain access to online accounts. Additionally, they could use your IP address (your computer’s unique code used to identify the location and specific modem used) to commit cybercrimes. Whatever the scammers’ motivations are, any kind of computer crime will likely damage your reputation online. Precautionary measures should be put in place to avoid anything like this from happening.
Always proceed with caution when opening suspicious emails, links, and attachments. Most cyber-attacks stem from a slew of malicious emails sent to the user, dangerous websites being accessed, or a sketchy advertisement on a website that may otherwise feel legitimate.
Attachments are arguably the most dangerous of any method used to infiltrate your computer. Typically, an attachment will begin downloading and corrupting your computer with whatever it holds the moment you click the link that spurs it. Sometimes, even if you are quick to cancel the download, it will have already infected your computer.
Make sure you practice safe online habits and do not open attachments unless you are certain whom they are coming from, and that person or company is a trusted source. Often, scammers will pose as a legitimate source, so be sure to check the e-mail address and be on the lookout for any misspellings or suspicious behavior within the means of communication. This is likely a giveaway that something may be fraudulent.
3. Nigerian Letter Fraud
A scam that has been circulating throughout the Internet for many years and remains popular is a letter that is received through email or similar means of communication posing to be an offer from Nigeria. The sender offers the recipient an opportunity to make a lot of money easily by helping them transfer their fortune to another account, and in turn, will offer them a percentage for their service.
In reality, the recipient will not get a penny from the scammer. They will lose whatever money that they have sent the perpetrator, and the information given to them will be stolen and likely used in an attempt to further steal finances. While these kinds of scams are well known, they still fool thousands of people and result in millions of dollars lost.
Janella Spears, a registered nurse from Oregon, is one of many that fell victim to this exact scam. In 2005, she was robbed of over $400,000 through means of this ruse. At first, the denominations were small; only about $100. As she fell further down the rabbit hole, she grew further in debt which only made her hope for a big pay off as promised to her even more. To no surprise, those claims were false and as a result lost her husband’s savings for retirement, mortgaged her house, and had to take a loan out for her families’ car.
Never reply to these kinds of emails; delete them. It is also a good idea to report the sender to the FBI using their website to prevent others from falling into the trap. Always be skeptical of someone offering you money that claims to be from Nigeria or a foreign government official. Finally, and should go without saying, hold your personal information secure and do not give anonymous people on the Internet information that will help them gain access to your private data and finances.
When you believe you have a good understanding of the kinds of scams out there on the interest, a new one emerges. Cyber-attackers are always using new tactics to fool or hack you to acquire information of value to them. Beyond the three common practices used by scammers listed, you should be doing research often to further familiarize yourself with the new ways that you could be taken advantage of. Since more data is being stored on cloud based services and technology is becoming more prevalent at such a rapid pace, the rate in which innovations will be made to scamming techniques will also increase. Make decisions online that will put you in the least amount of danger.