Unfortunately, the number of online scams that people fall for continues to rise, with some evidence indicating that one in ten adults will fall for one of these scams. Sadly, it is often the elderly and financially vulnerable who are most likely to be taken advantage of.
Thankfully, a wealth of research and experience has given us ample cyber security tools to be aware of these scams and stay ahead of the scammers who perpetrate them.
Check Your Privacy Settings
A dedicated scammer can glean a great deal of information from you, whether or not you even realize that it is out there. Next time you use social media, make sure to check out what your privacy settings are set at. Without realizing it, you may be broadcasting a huge amount of information to the world, including your name, address, family information, names of pets, and more. This can make it very easy for someone to get enough information about you to pull off a successful scam. Fortunately, most social networks have made it very easy to limit who sees what information about you, so make sure to update your privacy settings the next chance you get.
Beware Of Imposters
A very common type of online scam involves people impersonating someone close to you, using a familiar name, social media profile, Email address, or another easily identifiable piece of information. They will then contact you and either ask you for money or encourage you to apply for a “grant” program that almost certainly has an upfront fee to access. Don’t fall for this. If someone sends you a message out of the blue, uses incorrect grammar or otherwise sounds like a different person, make sure to think twice before clicking on any links or wiring them any money.
Google Is Your Friend
While the advent of scams on the internet has taken advantage of too many, the good news is that the tools exist to check out if you are being scammed, and they are right at your disposal. All you have to do is Google a message you are getting and add words like, “Scam” or “Rip-Off.” If something is a scam, odds are good that it has been tried before and that others will have complained about it. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, make sure to check it out on Google first.
Be Aware Of Spoofing
Spoofing is a popular method that many scammers use. It is illegal, but a common method to trick you. Almost all of us check our caller ID before answering the phone, but in many cases, scammers will “spoof” the call to make it appear as if they are calling from somewhere else. This makes it so that the call looks like it is coming from an official source and increases the odds of you believing whatever they say.
Watch How You Pay
Remember, scammers love methods of payment that are virtually impossible to stop, including things like wiring money or reloadable gift cards. If someone tells you to pay them that way, that should set off every red flag imaginable – even if it’s from a source you trust. Make sure to pay in verifiable, traceable, and potentially reversible ways, including credit cards and checks.
Watch For Common Warning Signs
Websites that ask for your payment should be secure – that means they should have a lock icon in the URL bar or use “https.” Furthermore, if someone sends you a message pretending to be your friend, but their English is broken or they don’t know details about your relationship, it is quite likely a scam. Never give someone money without doing background research or at least a quick Google to confirm their authenticity, and make sure to ask someone you know or trust if you have any questions about a solicitation you just got.