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8 latest cyber scams: How to spot them and protect yourself

What we'll cover

  • Common cyber scams

  • What to watch out for

  • How to protect yourself 

Technology is ever-changing, and so are cybercriminals’ strategies. What can you do to help prevent yourself from falling victim to new and trending scams? Start by testing your knowledge, then read on to stay up to date on the latest cyber threats and ways to avoid them. 

 1. Vishing and voice clone scams

Vishing, known as “voice phishing,” is a tactic where scammers leverage automated, computer-generated voice messages to call people and build trust in an attempt to obtain personal information. 

Vishing attacks are becoming more sophisticated as emerging artificial intelligence tools allow scammers to create audio content that can clone the voices of friends and family members. If an alleged friend or family member calls frantically asking for money, hang up and call the person directly. You could also create a “safe word” that only you and your close family know. Should you ever receive a desperate call, you can quickly verify the validity with the safe word.

2. Phone scams: Smishing, SIM swapping and OTP bots

We rely on our smartphones for almost everything. Unfortunately, there are more than a few ways scammers can reach unsuspecting victims through their smartphones. 

Smishing: Smishing , or SMS phishing, is when a scammer sends a text pretending to be from a legitimate company in order to get sensitive information like your credit card or social security number. The text also often has a link asking you to confirm information. If there are typos in the message or if you’re suspicious, never click on the link.  

SIM swapping: Another way hackers can use your phone is by SIM swapping. It's actually similar to the process when you get a new phone and SIM card from your provider. From there, the scammer can get access to multiple accounts by inputting a verification code or starting an account password reset. Reach out to your provider and ask about additional security measures to protect yourself from SIM swapping. 

OTP bots: Another tactic scammers use is OTP bots, which trick people into sharing authentication codes received by text or email. You might receive a robocall or text from someone posing as a legit company like your bank. 

Remember, most legitimate companies — including Ally Bank — will never ask for your username, password or card number over the phone.

3. Student loan payment scams

Scammers can take advantage of those who owe student loans by posing as federal loan servicers or seemingly legitimate businesses. They call and email to offer solutions such as loan consolidation or lower monthly payments. 

As part of the application form to qualify for these services, they might ask for sensitive information like your Social Security number or banking information. If you receive an unexpected phone call or email from someone who says they're with your loan servicer, hang up and contact your servicer instead. 

4. Crypto scams

Illegitimate contests, prizes and early investment opportunities are often at the center of crypto scams. If you hear about an investment opportunity that sounds too good to be true, it’s wise to think twice. They often target people who have already fallen for a crypto scam, so don’t let yourself be a repeat victim. They may offer you a refund if you pay an upfront fee or for access to your crypto wallet. 

5. Digital payment app scams

Third-party payment apps are convenient but beware of scammers when using them. While you can usually contest an illegitimate payment with your bank, it’s much more difficult to get a refund from a payment app. Some common scenarios include accidentally overpaying, fake fraud alerts as well as phishing emails or texts. 

If you get a message that looks like it’s from a payment app, verify it by logging into your account through the app or website.

6. Online marketplace scams

Watch out for similar scams when selling or buying items through sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or eBay. When you’re the seller, you might receive a fake payment receipt. Scammers may also overpay for an item you’re selling and then ask for a refund on that amount. When you send it, you may realize you never received their initial payment.

Never ship the item until you have confirmation from your bank that payment has been received. As a buyer, beware of bootleg or broken items. If a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is. 

7. Work-from-home scams

These typically start as an ad saying you can make big money working from home. 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 inquire about the job, the potential employer could ask for your sensitive personal information, they’ll likely swipe your identity and/or money.

8. Romance scams

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. Their hope is that they can rely on the personal relationship they’ve built with you, though fraudulent, to guilt you into helping them in their time of need. 

Stay active, stay safe

In addition to these scams, would-be cybercriminals also have more traditional tricks up their sleeves. Help keep yourself protected by remaining vigilant and remembering that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. By playing an active role in your safety and cybersecurity, you can stay ahead of even the craftiest of cybercriminals. As always, don’t hesitate to report a suspected scam.

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