Have you ever clicked on an email from a recognized sender requesting sensitive information you don’t feel comfortable sharing?
Internet scams come in many forms, including emails that attempt to trick you into handing out financial information (also known as phishing), pop-ups loaded with malware, and social media messages crafted to spark fake romantic relationships (also known as catfishing).
Studies indicate that over $52 million has been lost to internet scams in just 2020 alone. And the year isn’t even over!
So, what exactly is an internet scam?
The term generally refers to someone using internet services or software to defraud or take advantage of victims, typically for financial gain. Cybercriminals target victims with convincing profiles, emails, etc. to obtain financial or other valuable personal information. This can result in major losses on behalf of the victim that is oftentimes difficult to get back.
The key to protecting yourself from internet scams is knowing what to look for and how to protect yourself. In today’s blog, we’re detailing the steps you should take to ensure you do not fall prey to such attacks.
Identify and Ignore Scam Messages
What does a typical scam message look like?
In an email, for example, a scam message will ask you for sensitive information or alert you that you have, ironically, been hacked or scammed. The phrasing will tell you to click a link to access details and see what was leaked online. From there, the webpage will request account information, such as a login to social media, in order to see the content.
A cybercriminal now has your password, along with total control of your account.
The key is to be able to smell a fishy email message when you see one. Phishing scams are one of the most common types of scams on the internet. If you open an email and aren’t sure it is legitimate, don’t click on links, open attachments, reply to the message, attempt to unsubscribe, or call any telephone number listed in the suspicious message.
And don’t give out any money, credit card details, or other personal details.
Install Antivirus Software
Antivirus software aims to protect internet users from viruses that can harm their computer hardware or access their files and steal important information. Malware and spyware are two of the most common internet security threats that have been around almost as long as the internet itself.
Malware is short for malicious software and includes various malicious software, such as viruses, ransomware, and spyware. It typically consists of code developed by cyberattackers, designed to cause extensive damage to data and systems or to gain unauthorized access to a network. On a hardware level, spyware is downloaded software that enables a user to obtain secret information about a user’s computer activities by transmitting data covertly from their hard drive.
Antivirus security software is designed to prevent malware from embedding on your computer or device. If the software detects malicious code, like a virus or a worm, it works to disarm or remove it. This could help protect your devices if you accidentally click a dangerous link. The antivirus software can fight the malware and safeguard your files. Thus, it is important to be sure you download software apps and services only from official vendor sites.
Set Up Multilayered Security Features
Have you ever heard of two-factor authentication? If you use Google or have an iPhone, chances are you have. Also known as multifactor authentication, two-factor authentication requires two or more credentials when you log in to an account, creating an extra layer of security.
As an example, this can be a combination of a password plus something you have (such as an additional passcode sent to your phone — this is what Google does) or something you are (such as fingerprint or facial recognition — this is what Apple does).
So if a scammer does get your username and password, multifactor authentication makes it harder to log in to your accounts.
File a Complaint
Have you stumbled upon a website, email, or profile that you are almost certain is fraudulent?
If you have, you can file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Be ready to provide the following information:
Victim’s name, address, telephone, and email
Financial transaction information
Subject’s name, address, telephone, email, website, and IP address
Specific details on how you were victimized
Any other relevant information you believe is necessary to support your complaint
The center reviews complaints, analyze data, and creates intelligence reports that highlight emerging threats and new trends. Knowing how internet crimes work helps people understand the dangers involved and identify the fraud before falling prey to it. They may even forward their findings to law enforcement for legal action.