In a world where information flows freely and technology connects us more than ever before, internet scams have unfortunately become the new normal. Fraudsters continually devise new methods to deceive people, and their skills improve each year, to the extent that even major corporations have fallen victim to their schemes. And we’re talking big names here. But don’t worry – knowledge can be the best weapon against it. Have a look at the most common scams and learn how to prevent them.
How internet scammers won against big companies
It can happen to anyone. Even billion-dollar companies with extensive cybersecurity resources can find themselves struggling with phishing, hacking attacks, and online fraud. No one is immune, as seen by these famous scams below.
Take the case of Nordea Bank. In 2007, a Russian hacker known as “The Corpse” sent emails to customers of this Swedish bank, convincing them to install what pretended to be anti-spam software. Unfortunately for the customers, the software turned out to be a disguised Trojan. What is a trojan virus? A Trojan allows the hacker to carry out any function that a normal user could perform like exporting data or deleting files. As a consequence, the victims ended up installing viruses like a keylogger – a program that records everything on a user’s computer, including sensitive information such as passwords and login credentials. Nordea Bank suffered losses over 7 million Swedish Krona – an equivalent to nearly 600 million euros! Nordea certainly learned their lesson the hard way, but there’s no need for us to repeat their mistakes. By educating yourself about online security, you can significantly reduce your vulnerability to cyber attacks.
The Snapchat Scam
Snapchat also was not untouchable when it came to sneaky scammers. Almost a decade later, in February 2016, cybercriminals successfully impersonated Evan Spiegel, the CEO of Snapchat. One of the company’s own employees opened an email, believing it to be from Spiegel. However, it turned out to be a phishing message whereby a fraudster requested payroll information for both current and former employees. As a result, several people in the company exposed their personal data, including tax information, Social Security Numbers, income details, and even healthcare plans. In response, Snapchat promptly had to officially apologise for the security breach and offered impacted employees repayment. One positive to come out of this ordeal is that the attack strengthened the company’s training programs. See? Sharing knowledge is crucial, and perhaps some companies might avoid trouble by offering their employees security workshops like Snapchat does now.
Common types of scams & how you can avoid them
The key takeaway, anybody can fall for scam, it happens. But it’s not all scare tactics – the more we know, the better we are at preventing scams. And that’s why dundle is here to guide you in the right direction. For instance, our interview with a famous cybersecurity expert. But besides the big named victims, what about the real threat to us, everyday users? Here are some super common scams you should look out for. By becoming familiar with these scams and you’ll begin to recognize the patterns that perpetrators use. This way, you will protect yourself from falling victim to their schemes, even when they change their tactics.
Gift card fraud and scams
Gift cards can be a handy way to manage your finances, but watch out because scammers like to use them too. Since they are not linked to users directly, they are a scammers perfect tool. Look out for those pretending to be a delivery service, a utility company, or even the government. No matter what story they spin, they’ll ask you to pay some kind of fee in the form of a gift card. These prepaid vouchers are nameless, and scammers can use them right away without leaving any evidence behind. That makes it difficult to catch the perpetrators. So what can you do? Follow the tips below or check out our extensive guide on the topic in our article all about staying safe from gift card scams.
How to avoid gift card fraud
- Don’t share your gift card code with anyone you don’t know in person.
- Only buy gift cards from trusted sellers.
- Use gift cards only on the websites they’re meant for; don’t use them for random delivery services or other stuff.
- Redeem your code as soon as possible.
- Keep your code safe and don’t post it online for all to see.
- Always keep in mind that real companies won’t ever demand payment for insurance, utilities, or fees using gift card codes.
What is smishing? It is the SMS version of “phishing”. Phishing is a type of scam in which an imposter tricks the victim into sharing sensitive information or installing harmful software. Scammers using this tactic primarily send text messages that create a sense of urgency and seriousness. Well-known examples are when they pose as a delivery company, tax company or bank, urging you to click the link disguised as a tracking link for delivery or some other time sensitive request.
How to avoid smishing
- Don’t let your emotions take over. Scammers want you to blindly follow their instructions and click the link, so they’ll trick you by manipulating you with a sense of urgency.
- Don’t click on any links in the message, unless you’re sure that they’re coming from a legit source.
- If you get a message from a bank or a delivery service, call them directly before taking any action. Remember, a bank or any other trustworthy company will not ask you for sensitive data via text.
- Not sure whether the message is safe or a scam? Simply Google it. You can also include the phone number of the sender. In case the message is indeed from a scammer, chances are, you’re not the first person to receive it and someone else already raised the alarm.
- Never reply to a scam message and never respond to SMS marked as spam. By doing so, you will tell the scammers that they’ve reached an active number, potentially leading them to try targeting you again.
What is a grandparent scam and how does it work? Well, the unconditional love and good-hearted nature of grandparents sadly become used by fraudsters. The imposter gathers private information about someone, often sourced from social media. Armed with this knowledge, they assume the identity of the victim’s grandchild or their close friend. Typically through phone calls, there have been instances where scammers visited elderly people in person, claiming to be a friend of their grandchildren who are now facing trouble and in need of financial help. However, sometimes they don’t even bother to collect the information, and they simply start the conversation like “Grandma? It’s me! Do you know who’s calling?”, hoping that the victim will say the name and take over from there, usually ending in requesting a substantial bank transfer. The imposter typically adopts an emotional tone, claiming to be in trouble and desperately needing financial help and asking the victim not to involve any other family members. To add more credibility to the story, the caller might pass the phone to another individual playing various roles, such as a lawyer, police officer, doctor, or even a supposed kidnapper. While the thought of this happening to people we care about the most is frightening, there is now greater awareness about the issue. Once you understand how online scam schemes operate, it becomes easier to quickly identify the impostor and protect your loved ones by warning them not to fall for it.
How to avoid a grandparent scam?
Educate your loved ones about how these scams operate, by providing the following information:
- When someone asks a vague question like, „Do you know who that is?“ don’t respond. Instead, ask them to fully introduce themselves.
- Ask many questions regarding the caller’s situation, specific location, and other pertinent details. Imposters are more likely to forget the minor lies they provided.
- Confirm their identity by asking questions that only your loved ones would be able to answer.
- After ending the call, immediately reach out to other family members and inform them about the situation.
- NEVER disclose your personal information over the phone unless you are certain that you’re talking to a trusted individual.
Romance scams and catfishing
The desire for love and human connection is universal, which sadly, is often used with bad intentions. The term “catfish” has gained notoriety for a reason, as in our digital age, it’s common for people to form emotional connections with individuals they meet online. Sadly, this results in a huge increase in romance scams and fraud victims. This is particularly common on dating websites. Well, what starts with just a few messages can have consequences far more painful than a broken heart. The imposters are great at manipulation. They pretend to be someone they’re not by using stolen photos, lying about their professions and making up dramatic stories in order to make the victim feel sorry for them. After gaining trust, they eventually request money, ultimately leading victims to serious financial problems.
How to avoid romance scams and catfishing?
- Always do your research and check a person’s social media profiles.
- Use the Google Search tool to see if your prospective date might have taken a picture from another website. Keep in mind that scammers can go as far as stealing someone’s entire identity; that means they can use not only photos but also the name of a completely unaware person.
- Be curious and ask questions. Show genuine interest without being intrusive. Watch out for those who dodge questions, change the topic, or provide contradictory information (for example, one day they mention that they played basketball in high school and later claim that they never did sports).
- Ask for a video call to confirm a person’s identity.
- Talk to your friends to get a second opinion about someone you’re interacting with.
- Be cautious about what you share online. Fraudsters can use your social media information to pretend they have a lot in common with you and manipulate you.
- Trust your instincts. If you’re unsure about someone from the very beginning, it’s a strong signal to be extra cautious.
“It’s easy to stay safe online”
That’s the motto for Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2023. While it might seem as scammers find new ways to deceive people every day, in reality, their schemes are based on the same patterns. By understanding this, you’re more likely to keep yourself safer online. The key is to maintain caution, think critically, and avoid letting emotions cloud your judgment. But as you read here, even the top dogs fall for it. If you find yourself a victim of a scam, don’t panic… You can see you are definitely not alone. Check out our article on what to do if you’ve been scammed and worry not. By staying on top of the common scams out there and the past mistakes of even the biggest names, you can easily protect yourself. Stay safe!