Today’s online landscape can be a dangerous place for the uninitiated. Innovative scammers are becoming increasingly savvy in their attempts to gain access to your personal data. Once in your system, they can drain your accounts, pirate personal information, or upload damaging software to your system.
With the holiday shopping season quickly approaching, now is the time to address any potential vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals will be working double-time during the holidays, so you should be prepared.
The first step in stopping these scammers is to learn to recognize and understand their methods. Here we’ll take a look at 5 of the most common types of online scams, and offer you a few essential tips needed to recognize potential scammers before they can strike.
Scammers have become adept at persuading their victims to reveal vital personal or financial information. They often do so by posing as a legitimate business or government institution. Often, a scammer will claim that there is a problem with your account and insist that your vital personal data are required to fix it. Social Security numbers, personal identification numbers, user names, and passcodes are often surrendered willingly to cybercriminals who use these phishing scams.
Fake Tech Support
One of the most successful scams is to claim your computer needs additional software to function optimally. They will often claim that your machine is infected with a virus and that they can “cure” it remotely (if you provide them access). Once in your system, bad actors can plant malware, spyware, and even viruses of their own.
Another way scammers gain access to their victims’ personal data is to pose as a prize or sweepstakes company. Who doesn’t enjoy winning prizes? And while being told you’ve just scored a substantial sweepstakes win might give some cause for skepticism, others too often freely surrender personal financial in an attempt to claim their “prize.” The result: the scammer ends up with your financial data and drains your account.
Another common scammer tactic is the spoof call, in which a scammer claims to be local but is in fact calling from an out-of-state call center. Scammers have learned that you are more likely to answer a call from a local area code than from an 800 or 888 number. Once they’ve got you on the line, they can begin to work to gain your financial or personal data.
Some scammers are even resorting to strong-arm tactics to get money from their victims. By posing as collection agents or even government agencies (such as the IRS), scammers are literally scaring people out of their money. Remember: the police will never call you to collect a debt. If you feel you are being harassed by a fake collection agency, contact an attorney or a consumer protection group.
Learning to spot a scam is the first step in preventing potentially catastrophic financial loss or identity theft. Here are a few warning signs to watch for…
- Scammer asks for info they should already have.
- Scammer claims to represent a legitimate entity but can offer no verification.
- Scammer offers help with a “computer problem” you’re unaware of having.
- Scammer asks you directly for passcodes or other sensitive data.
Outsmarting the Scammers
Online scammers rely on the vulnerabilities of human nature to obtain access to your sensitive information. By viewing such pitches with a skeptical eye, you can often spot the signs of a scam attempt. Here are a few tips…
- View online offers and pitches with a critical eye.
- Beware of anything that sounds like “easy money.”
- Beware of fake contests—if you don’t remember entering, you probably didn’t.
- Beware of people claiming to be long-lost relatives.
- Check the source on questionable emails.
- Don’t take phone calls from unrecognized numbers.
- Check emails that seem to come from a recognized source (like your bank or the IRS)—often they are copycat or lookalike accounts designed to trick you. Remember: your bank and the IRS shouldn’t need to ask for your personal account data—they should already have it.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office provides resources for those who’ve been victimized by online scammers. If you believe you’ve been the victim of an attempted or successful scam, you may submit a complaint to the Bureau of Consumer Protection by calling 1-800-441-2555 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. (In Spanish: email@example.com or attorneygeneral.gov/submit-a-complaint/scams-complaint/.)
We hope you find this guidance helpful. At Waterdog Computer Works, your cybersecurity is our top priority. Our experienced techs can evaluate your system, identify potential vulnerabilities, and suggest upgrades to help keep your personal data safe. Give us a call and let us know your computer needs!
Located in Wayne, Pa, Waterdog Computer Works is a complete IT solutions and cybersecurity provider serving businesses throughout the Main Line Philadelphia area. Focused and responsive, Waterdog Computer Works offers a two-hour emergency response time guarantee, no-risk contracts and a team of technicians with over 75 years of combined experience. Call us at 484.580.8568 to speak to a member of our team.