Cybercriminals are constantly finding ways to steal people’s money and personal information through scams. Some scams haven’t changed much over time while others have morphed into new variations. Either way, they continue to be used to steal your personal information and money. The numbers are quite frightening. The Federal Trade Commission, the main agency that collects reports of scams, reported that in 2021, 2.8 million fraud reports were filed resulting in a $5.8 billion loss to Americans. The numbers have been climbing in recent years, despite increased efforts to educate Americans on how to avoid scams.
Now that we are officially in the holiday season, expect a huge increase in scam attempts. In this blog, we will take a look at what the tell-tale signs are of a scam and show you how they are used against you. Of course, we can’t leave out tips on how to protect yourself against them. Let’s dive in.
Scammers attempt to acquire personal information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers by sending fraudulent emails or pop-up messages. This is known as phishing. They pose as representatives from well-known companies or organizations and even spoof phone numbers in an attempt to make the emails, calls or text messages seem more legitimate.
Scammers have been at this a long time and have improved their techniques. Gone are the days of easily spotting phishing attempts from Nigerian princes offering to be your sugar daddy. Today’s scammers are informed and keep up to date on the news and trends. The end goal for phishing scams is to steal your identity.
Signs It’s Probably a Scam
Even though scammers use different techniques, all scams have one or all of these things in common, they:
- Pressure you to act quickly
- Prey on your fears
- Are unexpected
- Prey on your trust
- Ask you to verify your personal information, your banking information, etc
- Ask for payment in unconventional ways
Let’s take a look at how cybercriminals use these techniques in practice.
Google Voice Scam
This is when someone calls you pretending to be interested in something you posted online for sale. Once again, they attempt to put the burden on you to prove you’re not a scammer. They say they are going to verify you’re a real person by sending you a verification code from Google Voice. What they are actually doing is setting up a new account in your name so they can continue the scam using your information. It’s important to be aware that to avoid scams like this, do not read back any verification codes to anyone, ever, over the phone. Once again, when someone calls or texts you, the burden should never be on you to prove who you are.
Gift Card Scams
A representative calls from a seemingly legitimate business, such as Amazon or your bank, saying you owe money due to a technical glitch where they accidentally deposited money into your account instead of withdrawing it. They pressure you by saying this is an urgent matter that needs to be taken care of immediately to avoid further dire consequences. Once they have you sufficiently worried, they then explain that payment must be made using gift cards. Avoid scams like this by taking a breath and keeping the following in mind; gift cards are for the thoughtful, not transactional, hence the name “gift card.”
This scam is especially dangerous because once again, nothing can be traced with a gift card. As soon as you read that code on the back of the card to them, your money is gone instantly with no way to trace it.
Scammers send text messages, emails and even call you from financial institutions who contact you claiming suspicious activity has been detected on your account and they are “helping you resolve it.” They then pressure you to verify who you are, verify a code sent to you, and/or send them money outside that financial institution, such as Zelle or gift cards. The alarm bells should be ringing for you at this point. You can avoid scams like this one by hanging up, looking up the phone number for the bank and calling them directly.
Spoofed Phone Numbers
You receive a call or text and the caller ID shows a legitimate business. Don’t fall for it. Phone numbers can be spoofed easily and they are often the most difficult scams to recognize and one of the easiest methods for scammers to automate. They set up a robocall to send thousands of phone calls a day to random numbers.
If you receive a call and the caller (or recording) says you can push a button to stop the calls, don’t push it. This is how scammers quickly identify active phone numbers. Do not respond to yes/no questions. They can record your responses and use them as verification for your other accounts. Set up a password for your own voicemail. A lot of phone service providers allow your voicemail to be accessed from your phone number if there is no password. Remember, your phone number can be spoofed as well.
There are so many kinds of employment scams that it is easier to just review the warning signs that it is a scam:
- Any job posting that asks for you to pay something up front such as a certification, “starter kits”, training is a scam.
- Any job that requires you to receive products at your home, repackage them and reship to another location.
- Any job that asks you to deposit a check and use some of the money for any reason.
- Any job posting that asks you for personal information over the phone during the initial interview.
To avoid scams related to job postings, be on the lookout for the signs listed above and do not engage with them.
Spam is the junk mail that clogs up your inbox. Spam is not only inconvenient, but it’s also dangerous. It is sent out in mass quantities by cybercriminals hoping to spread malicious code (malware) and to phish for your personal information. As informed as I am regarding cybersecurity, I am fairly certain I feel for one this past week. Here’s what happened:
I was getting inundated with hundreds of emails a day from retailers with their holiday specials. My legitimate emails were getting lost in the masses so one day and I couldn’t keep up with deleting them one by one. So, I decided one evening to plop down on the sofa, veg out in front of the tv and click unsubscribe link after unsubscribe link. It became apparent that one of these unsubscribe links was not from a genuine company when I started receiving multiple emails a day from different retailers all with the same subject line “2nd attempt – Anaka.” At first I was disappointed in myself for falling for a scam, but quickly turned it into a learning opportunity. Pay attention and practice what I teach!
Cybercriminals will continue to evolve their methods for stealing people’s personal information and money, but there are some constants that you can look out for. Keep an eye out for unexpected requests for personal information or calls to action that require you to act quickly – these are usually telltale signs of a scam. And remember, if you ever have any doubts about whether something is legitimate or not, err on the side of caution.
If you find you have become the victim of a scam, identity theft or fraud, your best course of action is to notify any financial institutions involved, request new debit/credit cards, change your passwords and visit https://www.usa.gov/stop-scams-frauds for more guidance.
Protect Your Business Against Spam
In response to the continued rising of scams, we have added some exciting new features to our complete sales and marketing system that helps protect you against scammers. We have added an extra layer of security against bots, fraudulent activities, spams and abuse. Without getting too technical, these implementations protect against repeated requests being sent to your chat widgets and forms:
- Chat-widget Rate Limit.
- Order Form Rate Limit.
- Ported API submission and rate limiter.
If you have questions or are interested in hearing how we can help protect your business against fraud and spam, schedule a free call today.
As always, leave any comments below and have a safe holiday season.