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What You Need to Know About Internet Scams... and How to Spot Them

Everyday people fall victim to internet scams. From emails that trick you into giving your bank details to pop-ups filled with malware – even social media messages inviting you to make a connection – scammers are everywhere.  

The global cybercrime statistics are staggering. 85% of organisations reported experiencing phishing and social engineering attacks in 2019 alone. Understanding what internet scams are and how to spot them has never been more important.  

What are cyber scams? 

Cyber scams are when someone uses software or an online platform to deliberately defraud or take advantage of victims. Cybercriminals contact people through their personal or work email, social networking sites or when browsing specific URLs and attempt to steal their money or personal data. 

Anyone who uses an internet-enabled device could fall victim to an internet scam. However, figures show that those between the ages of 12-17 are particularly vulnerable.  

The most common internet scams  

Criminals have come up with dozens of ways to deceive victims. The bad news is that scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated! Right now, with more people remote working than ever before and totally reliant on their laptops, knowing how to spot the most common internet scams is essential.  

Here are just a few of the most common internet scams. 

Phishing scams 

Phishing is a common scam. A fraudster will send you an email that appears to be legitimate from, for example, a bank, social media platform or online store asking for your bank details and personal information.  

Emails are usually written in an urgent tone and often riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes so they’re easy to spot.  

As a rule, never click on links, reply to emails, attempt to unsubscribe or give out personal information to a suspicious email.  

Facebook impersonation scams 

Fraudsters clone existing Facebook accounts and send friend requests from the cloned account to the victim’s friends to extract personal information from everyone in the network.  

Fraudsters can use Facebook to gather personal information about you.

If you get an email from someone who you’re already friends with, search for their account. If you find two then one is obviously cloned and alert your friend, advising them to contact Facebook. 

Overpayment scams 

This one catches many people off-guard. Someone responds to an online ad for an item you’re selling. The buyer invents a reason for paying you much more than the price of the item and asks you to send them the money back. 

Once you’ve sent the money across, you realise that the initial transaction was fake, and you’ve sent money to a fraudster who hasn’t purchased the item in the first place. Remember to be cautious when buying items online, if you’re suspicious at all, cancel the transaction.  

Malware or ransomware scams 

For many criminals, installing malware on a victim's device is an effective way of extorting money from them. Victims are sent a pop-up message that says your computer is infected, a message from your bank or link to a news article.  

Clicking on the message triggers the malware installation which will scan your device for bank details, access your webcam, lock you out of your device and destroy your files.  

Cybercriminals will then demand payment to remove the malware and unencrypt your files... often at a very expensive price.  

If you get a strange pop-up, immediately disconnect the internet, reboot your computer and delete any temporary files.  

Letter scams 

This is one of the longest-running internet scams, so most people are aware of it. You’ll get an email from someone claiming to be from a very wealthy family, an official government employee or businessman who asks you to help them retrieve a large sum of money from an overseas bank. 

In exchange for your help, they promise to give you a percentage of the amount - and even provide paperwork that looks legit.  

However, this is a scam. The sender only wants your bank details. If you receive one of these emails, report it to the authorities.  

What you should remember 

It can seem that online scammers are everywhere. However, if you can spot scams like these a mile off, whilst protecting your laptop or PC with good security software, you’ll greatly reduce the chances of falling victim to cybercrime. 

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