Cybercriminals have their traditional methods of capturing targets. But just like technology is ever changing, so are their strategies. So what can you do to help prevent yourself from falling victim to new and trending scams? Staying alert and keeping yourself informed of the latest ways fraudsters attempt to nab your personal info with our quarterly security update.
Here’s what we know about some of the latest cyber threats, tips on how to avoid them, and a quiz to test your knowledge.
1. Tech support scams
In this scam, the would-be fraudsters want you to believe you have a serious problem with your computer, like a virus. Usually via a cold call, the scammer claims to be from a legitimate source (like the technical support department from a well-known software company) offering to fix the issue. You may also receive fake pop-up error messages that their computer has crashed and they need to contact an illegitimate support line.
The con artist then usually instructs you to download a remote access program, giving them access to your computer. Then they’ll launch programs to convince you of your computer’s critical problems and urge you to pay with a credit card or gift card to fix it.
Pro Tip: If a caller says your computer has a problem, hang up. An unexpected tech support call is more than likely a scam. If you’re the one placing the call, always search for the legitimate support line and double-check before you dial.
2. COVID-related scams
While these have changed throughout the pandemic, these COVID-related scams currently involve fake vaccine or unemployment websites.
Double-check before clicking links in emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local governments, or hospitals asserting to have information or access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Cybercriminals are using impostor vaccine websites to infect and lock devices with malware until payment is received.
Scammers are creating websites that mimic government unemployment insurance benefits sites and state workforce agencies. They also send text messages and emails asserting there are issues with your unemployment claim and encouraging you to click on an included link. Instead of directing you to a valid site, it’s actually a way for them to steal your Social Security number and other sensitive information.
Pro Tip: Be skeptical of any communication you receive about vaccinations or unemployment claims. It’s very unlikely that a government agency will ever call, email, or text you and ask for money or personal information.
Work from home scams
These typically start as an ad saying you can make big money working from home. Or one for a proven system to help you start an online busines. Or maybe after posting your resume on a job search website, you’re contacted by an “employer,” who wants your driver’s license and bank account numbers before they even interview you.
What’s next? If you answer the WFH posting, you’ll be asked for money for training. If you inquire about the system to start an online company, you’ll be pressured into paying for additional services but won’t receive anything that genuinely helps you make money. And if you give the potential employer your sensitive personal information, they’ll likely swipe your identity and/or money.
Pro Tip: You should be careful about paying money to earn money. If a company asks you to, this is a major red flag.
5. “Good Credit” scams
Across the internet, you might have seen employment offers or investment opportunities for people with good credit posted on classified websites or social media platforms. They may seem like the perfect opportunity to leverage your credit and invest, but beware — they’re typically a scam.
One way criminals may try to scam you is by convincing you to acquire and finance multiple vehicles. A third party or “business partner” then pays some cash upfront and promises to make the loan payments. The problem? The scammer fails to make further payments and disappears with the vehicle, leaving you with debt that’s often more than you can afford.
Pro Tip: Financing vehicles for people that you do not know well is a bad practice. Don’t endanger your good credit by obtaining a loan and giving a car to a stranger. The payoff will likely never come.
6. Romance Scams
Historically, in a romance scam, an unsuspecting person is tricked into believing they’re in a relationship with someone they met online — but in reality, it’s a con artist who often claims, conveniently, they can’t meet up IRL (that’s in real life). Instead, they’ll ask you to wire money for things like plane tickets, surgery, or gambling debts. Or they’ll ask for reloadable money cards or gift cards.
One way romance fraudsters may try to scam you is by convincing you to borrow money (often with multiple loans) to obtain vehicles and give them to third parties. In extreme situations, these scammers will try to persuade you to use another person’s credit identity if you’ve already exhausted your own. Regardless of who’s credit identity is used, you could be on the hook for a sizeable debt.
Pro Tip: In a romantic partnership, you should always view requests for payment and loans as potential red flags.
7. Fraudulent tax filing scams
We don’t want you to be among the thousands that have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams. Fraudsters typically will contact you via regular mail, phone or email requesting sensitive personal information to complete your taxes.
Pro Tip: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, phone, text message or social media asking for your personal details. If you receive a notice or letter from the IRS, search for it on the IRS website. If the form or reference number doesn’t match, it’s likely illegitimate.
Stay active, stay safe
In addition to these recent scams, would-be cybercriminals also have more traditional tricks up their sleeves. You can keep yourself protected with our best cybersecurity tips. By playing an active role in your safety and cybersecurity, you can stay ahead of even the craftiest of cybercriminals.
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