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October 8, 2020

New Technology, Old Tricks: Watch Out For Cyberscams

As the world moves more and more into the digital sphere, potential for exposure to scams increases, since fraudsters can use digital channels to reach lots of people quickly with improved scam tactics. Learn more about common cyberscams and how to avoid them.

The basics of cyberscams

Cyberscams are any online or digital scams used by fraudsters to gain access to your personal information, accounts, money or resources. The scams can be as simple as getting you to click on a malicious link in an email or as complex as hacking into your computer and extorting you. Any scam conducted through digital channels can be classified as a cyberscam.

Common scams and how to avoid them

Online shopping scams: These might look like fake flash sales from your favorite brands, coupon codes you didn’t request or any other unique way to get you to an external website. Always research sellers before purchasing from them and make sure you’re visiting the real company website directly.

Romance scams: These scams involve the fraudster exploiting romantic interest, sometimes laying the groundwork for weeks or months at a time before striking. Be wary of individuals online and verify their identity by researching them extensively to avoid being duped. Watch out for sudden urgency in requests for money or gift cards, even from someone with whom you’ve built a rapport or relationship over some time.

Friend or family scams: Scammers may pretend to be a relative or friend asking for money, potentially in a dire situation or emergency. Always contact your friend or family member directly to determine if they actually sent you the email and verify the validity of the situation before you take any action.

Bad news scams: Many scammers look for victims with emails claiming to be from a bank or government agency, like the IRS, to use fear or intimidation to coerce you to make a payment. Be skeptical of anyone who demands payment on the spot or asks for wire transfers or gift cards. Never send gift cards or wire money to strangers.

Good news scams: On the flip side, scammers can exploit positive emotions too. They may pretend you’ve won a contest and ask you to enter some personal information or click on a link to claim your money. If something seems too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. Unsolicited money showing up out of the blue? Scam.

Additional ways to protect yourself

Protect your computer. There’s a lot you need to do to keep your technology and devices protected, including keeping the firewall on, using antivirus software and keeping your software updated. For more details, read the FBI’s Internet Safety: Protect Your Computer guidance. The FBI also recommends not to store sensitive or embarrassing photos or information online or on your devices.

Use strong, unique passwords. Long passwords with a mix of characters that avoid dictionary words are the toughest for hackers to crack. Don’t share your passwords with others and avoid saving them in your internet browser. If you need help remembering passwords, consider using a reputable password management software that’s highly secure.

Do not open e-mails or attachments from strangers. Links within emails can contain malware or spyware, which can give hackers access to your personal information. Sometimes, these links are well-disguised, so be sure you’re confident in both the sender and the link itself before clicking.

Monitor your bank accounts and credit reports regularly. Keep an eye out for any unusual activity and let your lenders know immediately if you suspect fraud. Visit our Credit Education page to learn more about protecting your credit score and how to obtain your free credit report.

Staying educated and reporting fraud

Fraudsters are always looking for new ways to evolve their scams, and this list isn’t comprehensive. As online scams are on the rise, you’ll want to stay updated about ways to protect yourself. In addition to the tips above, we recommend scamspotter.org and FBI Cybercrime as resources to learn more about avoiding these scams.

Do you believe you’ve been the victim of an online or internet-enabled crime? File a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) as soon as possible. Visit ic3.gov for more information, including tips and updates about current crime trends. You can also find support and further help at fraudsupport.org.


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