People all over the globe use the internet on a daily basis. In fact, Statistica cites that, “As of January 2023, there were 5.16 billion internet users worldwide, which is 64.4 percent of the global population.” That’s a gold mine of possibilities for online scammers hoping to gain access to accounts, data, and business files!New data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shows that reported fraud losses increased more than 70% over 2020 to more than $5.8 billion. In 2021, 2.8 million fraud reports were filed with that organization. The numbers appear to be increasing as each year passes. The most commonly reported category for these scams is, once again, the imposter scams, followed closely by online shopping scams. Prizes, sweepstakes, lotteries, internet services, and business and job opportunities rounded out the top five fraud categories. (FTC 2022) With these crimes increasing in number, it’s a good chance for us to review what the common scamming techniques are, what immediate actions should be taken should one of these scams occur, and how it should be reported. Read on to find out more about scamming for the protection of your business and personal data.
Common Scamming Techniques & Methods
Can you spot a typical scam in your work or personal email? Can you tell when something isn’t quite right with your computer that could indicate a scammer has accessed your data? One of the best ways to prevent a scam from happening to you (or your business) is to arm yourself with knowledge of what to look for and what to do in case you spot a scam in progress. This should include anyone in your home that uses the internet and has an email as well as your workforce at your place of business. Being able to spot a scam prior to clicking on an email or attachment can mean this difference between deterring a scam and becoming a statistic of one. Here are a few of the methods and techniques often employed by online scammers.
A Sense of Urgency
Scammers often use persuasive techniques and psychological methods to create a sense of urgency and fear. The sense of urgency created in an email, text, attachment, or website could make one react before thinking through the action completely. For instance, words such as “act now,” “urgent,” “top priority,” and “click now” all send a message that if something isn't done immediately that you will miss out… or face consequences. Being able to spot these terms and red flags could help you slow down and realize that the email that seems to be coming from a “trusted” source may, indeed, be fake.
An Attempt To Gain Trust
Scammers know that computer users are becoming savvier and won’t open or react to things that don’t look legit. Therefore, they often impersonate a trusted source such as a well-known business, a bank, a government entity, or your healthcare provider’s information. The chances of a scammer gaining trust increases if they use a name, company, logo, or recognizable company to get you to take action.
An Appeal To Your Emotions
Most of us have emotions like sympathy and empathy that scammers tend to take advantage of. They use our kindness toward the plight of other humans to put us in a vulnerable position to want to help others by donating money, giving away some of our personal information, and filling out a survey that only takes a minute but could really help others. These are all techniques used to prey on our emotions and gain information.
An Appearance of Being Official
Many scams try to evoke trust by making themselves seem more official. They may mention their own verification procedures to “safeguard” your information. Again, this is a ploy to gain your trust and your information. These common strategies are an attempt to get you to believe their words and eventually give up pertinent information as a part of the scam. Knowing these strategies is just another tool in your belt to prevent these events from happening in your home or business.
Take Immediate and Long-Term Actions
Once you recognize that a scam may have just occurred, it is important to take some immediate steps to prevent negative consequences. In the case that you recognize that you have clicked on a text, email, or attachment that may have been malicious, the first thing to do is contact the legitimate website (for instance your bank) that the fraudulent email came from and reset your password. This is also an opportunity to consider adding two-factor authentication as another layer of security to your data. Once you realize that the thing you just clicked on is indeed a scam, it’s a good time to run a system scan for malware, viruses, and the like. At the same time, mark the scam as spam in your email folder so that it won’t end up in your inbox once again in the coming months or weeks.
Report to the Authorities
Another important step that can help protect yourself (and others) is to report the scam to the proper authorities. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has a special site to report Internet crimes called the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Here you can file a complaint or report that will be read by the FBI. The information you provide will be invaluable to helping the FBI and its partners bring cybercriminals to justice. Additionally, this site also provides useful resources and education about the latest and most harmful cyber threats and scams.
Recovery & Future Steps
Once the scam has been reported, it is a good time to take steps to prevent these in the future and recover from the event. Part of the recovery protocol should include beefing up your security including a review of passwords, two-factor authentication, and potentially a training review for employees who often encounter these scams. A few examples of current scams and reminders not to give out information via text, email, or unknown websites can help prevent many scams from occurring in the first place. Take steps to block unwanted calls and text messages that could be malicious. You can do this through the Federal Trade Commission “National Do Not Call” list. It’s also a good idea to have a family or company-wide policy not to pay someone who insists you pay with cryptocurrency, a wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram, or a gift card. Scamming happens all too often and we don’t want to see any of our clients or readers fall victim to these events. Arm yourself with the knowledge you’ll need to spot these scams and act before you become one of the millions of people who deal with these malicious cyber crimes every year.