Cyber Security

Trick or Treat: How to Avoid Getting Tricked Into a Cyber Scam

Every year, cyber scammers use clever schemes to defraud millions of people. They often combine new technology with old tricks to get people to send money or give out personal information. Scammers know all kinds of tricks to convince you they are genuine and get you to hand over your money.

Learn their tricks

Evildoers often put a new spin on an old trick in order to defraud others. Here are some things scammers may do to persuade you to do their bidding:

  • Pressure you into making a decision: They will use the terms “last chance” or “limited offer” to make you act fast so you don’t time to check whether their offer is real before you commit to it.
  • Threaten you: They will pretend to be from a well-known organization or government department and try to scare you into giving them your personal information or money by threatening you with a fine, disconnecting your internet, taking you to court, arresting, or even deporting you.
  • Claim to be professionals: Scammers will say they are approved or associated with reputable organizations or government agencies, or might claim to be a professional broker, portfolio manager, or investment dealer.
  • Persistent phone calls, text messages, or emails: Scammers often approach a large number of people this way, in the hope of receiving a response.
  • Fake websites and emails: Many scammers create professional-looking websites to try to convince you that their product is real and worth the money they want you to pay, and also send links to these websites in fraudulent emails which look like they’re from your bank or another business you may deal with.
  • Fake social media profiles: Some scammers create fake profiles and send you a friend request or message. If you respond, they then send you offers to make quick money or invest or ask for money to help them with trouble they are having. They could also gain access to your personal information and steal your identity.

Protect your personal information

You know that protecting your data is important. Here’s a quick refresher with some dos and don’ts.

  • Never share your personal, banking or credit card information with people you don’t know or trust, and never give them access to your computer.
  • Check your bank and credit card statements every month for suspicious activity.
  • Before you throw out personal documents, destroy them first by either shredding or ripping them up.
  • Beware of entering competitions or sweepstakes online where you must provide personal information.
  • Activate privacy settings on social media sites and be careful what you post online, as information can be easily stored and archived, even if you delete it.
  • Never share your PIN codes used for banking or your devices.
  • See identity fraud for more ways to protect your personal information.
  • Passwords protect your personal information, so it is important to make them strong and change them regularly.
  • Passwords should have a combination of at least eight characters and include uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Here’s an example (don’t use it!) sDke$5!2.
  • Don’t tell anyone your passwords: a legitimate business or company should never ask you for your password.
  • Use different passwords to access different online accounts and make them difficult for others to guess.
  • Don’t allow your computer to save your passwords, and don’t store them in a file on your computer.

Secure Devices

Online viruses can access personal information, infect your computer or mobile device and delete files. They can even use your computer to attack other computers. Here are a few things to think about when it comes to keeping your devices safe and secure.

  • Make sure you have good security software; anti-virus, anti-spyware/malware, and a firewall—and then, keep them all up to date.
  • Activate automatic updates for the operating system and update all other applications and software programs when updates are available through their official websites.
  • Make sure your wireless network is encrypted. If you’re not sure how to do this, seek advice from your internet provider.
  • Turn off your computer or disconnect it from the internet when you’re not using it.
  • Scan devices such as USBs or external hard drives for viruses before opening anything on them.
  • Delete and do not open any unsolicited or suspicious emails you receive.
  • Do not accept messages or friend requests from people you don’t know.
  • Be wary of clicking on advertisements about banking, finances, or investments in your social feed.
  • If you use public computers, never save your passwords to them.
  • Avoid using wi-fi to log into your bank accounts.

Online Financial Transactions

As online shopping becomes increasingly popular, it can be a tradeoff between convenience and security. Think twice before buying:

  • Only buy from reputable companies when shopping online. Use payment methods with built-in protections for credit cards and secure online payment facilities.
  • Search online to check recommendations and feedback from other customers if you haven’t dealt with a business before.
  • Never send cash overseas or to people you have never met, as this could be a scam.
  • Never accept unsolicited offers of credit from unfamiliar lenders. For example, if you’re submitting an online loan application, don’t assume you know who you are dealing with. Scammers can hack legitimate websites of some smaller lenders to target consumers.

Before you do business online, always do your own research on a company. Call their publicly listed phone number. Never rely on the information in emails or over the phone. You can find this information separately via an internet search or phone book. Scammers can impersonate licensed companies and give you a real company’s professional information to appear legitimate.

To protect yourself and your devices from potential scammers, hang up the phone, delete the email, text, or social media message if it looks even vaguely suspicious.

Related: Email Phishing – How to Spot Phony Emails and How to Avoid Getting Them