Over the years, cybercrime has grown to become a headache for everyone, individuals, and organizations alike. In the past decade, there has been an increase in the number of cybercrime cases.

This situation is because scammers have become innovative in their ways to con people out of their hard-earned money. The good news is that people can protect themselves by being aware of the most common scams, including the ones related to coronavirus. 

It only makes sense that knowing what scammers are doing is the first step to learning how to defeat them. 

Here are 5 of the more common scams and what you can do to ensure you’re not a victim.

The Effect of Scam on Our Lives

Account takeover is when scammers pretend to be you to access one or more of your accounts. They then use the access to carry out unauthorized transactions on your account.

For example, a scammer could steal your credentials and use them to get into your account. They then make transfers to other accounts. Sift, a payment fraud solutions company says account takeover is a fraudster’s choice of weapon. 

Sift says account takeover attempts between 2019 and 2020 rose by about 282%.

Fraudsters can take over accounts such as bank accounts, credit cards, and eCommerce. 

Most account takeovers start with the scammers harvesting personal information or purchasing it on the dark web. Cybercriminals value personal information such as email addresses, passwords, credit card numbers, and social security numbers.

Scammers have various techniques to access personal information, which they can then use to execute account takeovers. These include phishing, malware downloads, man-in-the-middle attacks, and others. 

Being aware and avoiding these techniques and methods is the best identity theft protection plan you could have.

Online Shopping Scams

Online shopping has become the new normal in our everyday lives. You can find almost anything on online shopping sites, whether you’re looking for the latest iPhone, designer clothes, state-of-the-art sound systems, or anything else.

As online shopping increases, scammers have come up with ingenious ways to defraud unwitting online shoppers. While many online sellers are legitimate, scammers take advantage of the anonymous nature of the internet to rip off shoppers. 

So, how do these scams work?

Scammers utilize cutting-edge technology to create fake websites that mimic genuine online retail stores, using sophisticated designs and layouts such as stolen logos and phony domain names. 

These websites offer luxury products like popular clothing brands, jewelry, and electronics at surprisingly low prices. One notable red flag is finding these products for a fraction of the retail price. 

As the saying goes, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” Another red flag is where someone asks you to pay with a money order, prepaid money card, or wire transfer.

At times, you’ll receive the item you paid for, but it’ll be fake. Other times you won’t receive anything at all.

Identity theft

Identity theft is the crime of obtaining personal or financial information from an unsuspecting victim to commit fraud through unauthorized transactions or purchases. The victims suffer from a ruined reputation resulting from damaged credit and stolen finances.

Identity theft protection is essential to avoid this damage. Identity theft appears in several areas such as social media, websites, email, messaging apps, and pop-up windows. 

This scam is usually effective because of the naiveté of the victims who don’t always realize they’re handing over personal and valuable information that cybercriminals can use for nefarious reasons. 

Any online interaction that asks for your personal information could be an identity theft scam, such as:

  • Fraudulent employment opportunities.
  • Fake applications for credit cards.
  • Scholarships and grants.
  • Student loans.

Some of the personal information you may be asked for include your bank account number, social security number, and credit card information.

Investment Scams

One thing that makes these scams dangerous is that they can be pretty sophisticated and tough to spot. They involve promises of big payouts, quick money, or guaranteed returns. The investment opportunities usually promise a high return with little to no risk – a huge red flag.

You may receive calls from companies offering investment opportunities with the promise of high returns. The callers are usually quite articulate and seem to be financially knowledgeable. 

They may say the offer is time-limited and even offer you a bonus to make you commit fast using brochures, good-looking websites, and impressive testimonials.

In any case, any money you “invest” usually goes right into the scammer’s bank account and not towards any genuine investment. Getting your money back is generally impossible.

Scholarship and Grant Scams

These days, it’s natural for people to worry about college costs and financing higher education. Scammers have become aware of this and target people looking to finance their studies with scholarships and grants.

The goal of these scams may be identity theft. It may also be a more direct attempt to charge you for so-called proprietary information about scholarships or grants that the “general public doesn’t know exists.”

These bogus online college scam offers can take various forms. For example, “guarantees” you’ll get your money back if you don’t receive the scholarship. It can also involve special fee-based scholarships you have to pay for.

What You Can Do to Avoid Scams

Follow these tips to ensure you don’t fall victim to scams:

1. Keep your personal information secure­ – Lock your mailbox and shred your old bills and other important documents before throwing them out. Keep your passwords and PINs in a safe place. 

Also, be careful of any personal information you share online. Keeping your sensitive personal information secure is the first step of identity theft protection.

2. Secure your devices – Always use password protection on your devices and update their security software. 

Don’t share access to your devices with anyone, protect your Wi-Fi network with a strong password, and avoid connecting your devices to public networks when accessing your online accounts. Install legitimate antivirus and firewall software.

3. Be careful when shopping online – If the offer is too good to be true, avoid it. Purchase from online shopping services that you know and trust. 

Before using virtual currencies like Bitcoin, think twice because they don’t have the same protection as other payment methods.

4. Pick strong and secure passwords – Choose passwords that are hard to guess and make sure to update them regularly.

A strong password has a mix of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. Please don’t use the same password for all your accounts, and don’t share them with anyone. 

5. Never open suspicious texts, pop-up windows, or click links or attachments in emails – If you are unsure about the contact, verify their identity first through an online search or looking through the phone book.

6. Review your security and privacy settings on social media sites – Always be careful who you connect with and make sure these settings are up to date.

7. Hang up on cold callers and ignore unsolicited texts – Ignore any promotional calls or texts you receive that seem suspicious. 

They most probably are scam attempts. You can also register with the Telephone Preference Service that enables you to opt-out of marketing calls.

8. Avoid any scholarship or grant offers that require you to pay a fee – An online college scam usually targets desperate college students who are particularly susceptible. 

If you receive a scholarship or grant offer that requires you to pay a fee to access it, avoid it at all costs.

Conclusion

The scams we have discussed are only the widespread ones. There are many other scams, and all of these have new approaches and techniques that can be quite different from the original fraud. 

They can come quickly or at a later date. Some scammers may pass your details to other scammers who use entirely different methods. Hopefully, this article will help you to be able to identify a scam with ease.

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