Scan the Scams: Top Online Swindles

scammer fishing away computer

Scan the Scams: Top Online Swindles

As the internet continues to grow and move into every aspect of society, online scams are only getting smarter.

Online scams used to only prey on vulnerable audiences, like the elderly or uninformed. But now anyone and everyone is at risk.

Some of the most realistic scams are found all over web pages you trust and even your own email inbox.

Here are the most sophisticated online scams lurking the internet in 2019 to watch out for:

Phishing Email Scams

Almost half of all security incidents start with phishing emails or dangerous attachments sent to company employees. These scams continue to evolve and be a large threat for organizations and individual users.

Phishing scams are based on communication made through email, text messages, or on social media platforms. Often the scammer will convince you to visit a copycat website that looks like a valid eCommerce or banking site.

You are led to believe that you're logging into your real account, but all of the information you enter is being sent to the scammers. Once they receive your information, the crooks can wipe out your accounts, run up your credit cards, or even steal your identity.

Some popular consumer phishing scams circulating the web this year include:

The Amazon Prime Day Scam

The phishing email contains a PDF attachment. The attachment presents you with links which, when clicked, take you to a spoof site that looks just like the real Amazon login page. If you then give them your Amazon login credentials, they will be sent to a cybercriminal who will use them to hijack your Amazon account.

The Apple ID Scam

This scam sends you an email that will explain that your Apple account has been locked to protect it against a hacker. To unlock your account, you must click on the link and follow the instructions on the webpage. This scam often not only steals your AppleID credentials but may also infect your computer with malware.

The Apple Invoice Scam

This phishing scam email contains a malware-infected attached purporting to be an invoice from iTunes or Apple. If you click to open the invoice, your computer may become infected with the malware.

The Sextortion Scam

This phishing email typically informs you that you have been “caught in a compromising position” while watching pornography. The email goes on to say that unless you pay a certain amount in Bitcoin within a number of days, a video of the compromising acts will be sent to your family and friends.

The sender may also add weight to the threat by displaying your actual computer or email password. The password will have been part of an earlier data breach.

The Tax Scams

Scammers will impersonate the IRS over the phone. The calls can be intimidating, stating that your taxes are unpaid, and jail awaits unless you pay immediately. The email version may be quite the opposite, stating that you have a tax refund and in order to claim it, you must click the link and fill in your details. The data you input will then be stolen. You should be aware that the IRS will only ever contact you by the physical mail system.

The Romance Scam

The scammer will form an online relationship with you, showing great emotion early on. Then when you seem to be hooked, the fraudster will ask for money. Emotional pleas such as a sick relative or a financial burden will be used to guilt you.

The Social Money Mule Scam

This phishing scam is often based off sites like Instagram and Twitter, where fraudsters post hashtags such as #instantcash. If you bite, you will be lured into making a quick few hundred dollars if you allow the fraudster to move money through your bank account. When you provide your information to them, all of your money will be stolen.

The Shopping Coupon Scam

Once you click the link provided it will direct you to a spoof site to collect personal details and often log in credentials of the real online version of the shop. Sometimes, this spoof site may also result in a malware download to your computer.

The Air Ticket Scam

Usually, an email will contain a message such as “Thank you for booking with us. We have received your booking under (reference number)” with a link to check if the booking is correct. If the link is clicked, you will be taken to a spoof site which will harvest personal details on behalf of the cybercriminal behind the scam.

The Fed Ex Scam

This scam uses urgency, such as sending a message that says “click here to see information of a confidential nature” or stating that FedEx is holding your ATM card and you must arrange payment immediately or lose your card. Both options will result in the scammer stealing personal data or infecting your computer with malware.

The Bank “SMiShing” Scams

You will receive a text which looks like it is from your bank. The message contains a link; if you click on it, you are taken to the infected website and the malware package can then be installed.

The Medicare Vishing Scam

This is a phone-based phishing scam. The purpose is to obtain money or Medicare, personal, or banking information. The scam varies around offering new policies, medical equipment, or services like DNA testing for cancer.

The Prize Scam

You will receive an email saying you had a large cash win. However, to get the money you will have to pay a “processing fee” or “shipping and handling charges”.

If you receive a text, call, or email regarding any of these topics above, do not click on any link provided. Falling for a phishing scam can be avoided by taking caution when entering important information and by investing in an antivirus software. Be hesitant to click links, enter personal information, or provide money unless you confirm that the source is legitimate.

Nigerian 419 Scams

The Nigerian 419 scam dates back to the days where snail mail was the only way to scam and to this day is still a popular swindle. The scammer will tell you a detailed storyline about large amounts of their money trapped in banks during events such as civil wars or coups, often in countries currently in the news. Or they may tell you about a large inheritance that is 'difficult to access' because of government restrictions or taxes in their country.

They will then promise you a large amount of money to help them transfer their personal fortune out of the country. These scams are often known as 'Nigerian 419' scams because the first wave of the scam came from Nigeria. The '419' part of the name origins from the section of Nigeria’s Criminal Code which outlaws the practice. These scams now come from anywhere in the world.

They may ask for your banking information to 'help transfer their money' and use this information to later steal your funds. Or they may ask you to pay fees, charges or taxes to 'help release or transfer the money out of the country' through your bank. These fees may even start out as quite small amounts. If paid, the scammer may make up new fees that require payment before you can receive your reward. They will continuously ask for more money as long as you are willing. You will never be sent the money that was promised.

Hitman Scams

The hitman scam seems like it came right out of a movie, but it has been happening to hundreds of real people. Imagine opening your email inbox and reading a message from an alleged assassin claiming you're their target. The email explains that you must pay the hitman thousands of dollars or die. The hitman scam is one of the most frequent scams you'll encounter online. They use details from your life, found from your social media to create a sense of real danger.

Avoid scams like this by safeguarding your personal information, especially online.

Tech Support Online Scams

The next time your phone rings and you don’t know the number, think twice before answering. If you've ever received an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be tech support, and they tell you your PC has a virus that needs to be fixed right away, you're familiar with the tech support scam. The scammers get you to spend money on unnecessary repairs and bogus anti-virus software. They also trick you into giving them remote access to your computer, so they can swipe personal information or install scamming malware.

If your computer is genuinely experiencing issues, contact a company you trust as soon as you can.

Greeting Card Scams

Greeting card scams arrive in your inbox stating to be from a loved one. The email tells you an e-card is waiting and asks you to click a link to view it. However, that link typically leads to a fake web page that downloads Trojans and other dangerous software onto your computer. Scammers then use the malware to harvest your personal data.

If you get one of these emails, it is essential not to click on any link or attachment that ends with ".exe." This is an executable file that could download and install a virus on your system. Also, be sure to check who sent you the email. If you don't know the sender, or it says something like "friend" or "secret admirer," delete the message without opening it.

Domain Registration Scams

You may have received a letter from the Internet Domain Name Services (IDNS) company to 'renew' your website's domain. Delete this notice immediately, it is this is a scam you should avoid. They prey on businesses that have domains but do not understand how domain registration works.

There is a grain of truth to the letter they send out to website owners. You must renew your domain registration every year, and they will charge you to do this.

If you have someone that takes care of your domain registration, forward the email or a picture of it to them to verify its validity. If you registered your domain yourself, or you want to verify it on your own, head over to Whois.Net and type your domain name into the search. You will see two key fields near the top, date and registrar.

You can see when your domain is going to expire, and the company that 'holds' your domain, or where you registered your domain. That company is called the Registrar. Does your current Registrar match the email or letter you received? If it doesn't match you should not give the scammers any money!

Get in touch with Social Spice Media to receive the help you need for managing your website and domain renewal. Do you know someone who could benefit from our services? Refer them to us today! Our team is eager to connect with businesses in any industry. We serve the local needs of Ventura County and Santa Barbara as well as anywhere in the United States.