Each October since 2004 has marked Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a collaboration between government and the private sector to educate consumers on ways to stay safe online.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers lost nearly $8.8 billion to scams in 2022, including $1.2 billion lost to scammers contacting victims via social media.
Scammers continue to get more sophisticated in their efforts to get their payoff, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Here are some common cyber scams and ways to prevent them.
Common Cyber Scams and Tactics
- Phishing and Spoofing: Phishing and spoofing are among scammers’ most used methods. Scammers use phishing tactics to get their victims to click a link sent via email, text, social media and more to install malicious software on their device. Spoofing legitimate websites and phone numbers for businesses and even your bank are also common tricks of scammers, so it is important to know what a bank impersonation scam looks like, what information your bank will and won’t ask for and how your bank will communicate with you.
- Peer-to-Peer Payments: Peer-to-Peer Payment platforms like Zelle®, Venmo and PayPal have made it easy and convenient to send money to friends and loved ones, but it is important to use them properly to avoid scams. Scammers pretend to be from your bank or another reputable company and say there is an issue with your account, and they need your credentials to resolve it. Once they have access to your account, they will send money out and just like that, it could be gone. It’s important to know the terms and conditions of any platform so you understand what qualifies as an authorized payment, and only send money to those you know personally.
- Social Engineering: One type of social engineering, romance scams, cost victims $1.3 billion in 2022, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Scammers will learn about you from publicly available information on social media, dating and other websites and work to form a “loving” relationship with victims before asking for money for things like bills or emergencies. Often, these payments are asked for in cash, gift cards or cryptocurrency, which is a red flag that you’re being scammed.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Deep Fakes: As technology continues to evolve, scammers are leveraging it more and more to target victims with the use of AI and “deep fakes.” Scammers use AI to take videos, photos and other information from your social media profiles and other websites and create deep fakes that look and sound like your loved one calling to say they’re in trouble and need money immediately.
How to Protect Yourself
Scammers use various tactics to target their victims, but some steps you can take to protect yourself from common scams include:
- Use strong passwords, including unique ones for each website or app, and update them regularly. Password managers such as LastPass or DashLane can help you protect your accounts without having to remember multiple complex logins. Performing a password health check every few months is also a good idea and should include checking if your passwords have been leaked at https://haveibeenpwned.com/.
- Utilize multi-factor authentication wherever possible.
- Ensure your devices have the most updated software and virus protection.
- Be wary of suspicious links you were not expecting to receive, particularly in emails and text messages. When in doubt, delete the message without clicking any links and call the company claiming to contact you using the number on its corporate website to verify the communication’s legitimacy.
- Don’t overshare on social media, dating and other websites. This information can be a treasure trove for scammers.
- Never send money to someone you don’t know personally.
- Never provide the username and password used to access your account online to someone claiming to be from your bank.
If You’ve Been a Victim
If you’ve been the victim of these or any other scams, contact your bank and credit card companies to immediately freeze your accounts, get new cards and account numbers, and to report any fraudulent activity. Have any devices that have been compromised professionally wiped. You should also file a police report, a report with the Federal Trade Commission (reportfraud.ftc.gov) and Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3.gov).
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