Top Scams of 2019 and How They Can Put Your Virtual Security at Risk

We have talked about some of the biggest online scams that tricked multiple people out there before, but it is time we update that information. Although we're not even halfway through 2019 yet, the cybersecurity tendencies this year is similar to most of the things we have witnessed before. So, we're going to go through the main types of online scams that you may encounter this year, then we will give a few examples, and finally, we will tell you how to spot online scams, so that you could avoid them in the future.

The Biggest Online Scams

The biggest and the most farther-reaching online scams arguably fall under the phishing category. Phishing clearly borrows its name from the word “fishing,” and it means that the criminals behind these scams try to fish some sort of information out of the unsuspecting users. And seeing how more than 60,000 email phishing scams are reported every single month, it is very unlikely that the numbers of these online scams would soon decrease.

The interesting thing about phishing is that this type of online scam is very dynamic. It is always susceptible to the latest news and trends. For instance, we all know that phishing is about impersonating something. It is very common to see phishing attacks that pose as banks in order to distribute ransomware. However, one of the latest phishing trends has been impersonating software services, and back in 2018, it made up one-third of all the reported online phishing attacks. In other words, phishing messages received from cyber criminals may look like notifications from Dropbox, Office 365, or any other reputable service.

From there, the attack tangent is simple: the scammers try to lure out passwords and other important information from unsuspecting users. With that information, they can easily access their personal (and corporate!) accounts on that service, which can result in a big data theft.

If you know how to spot an online scam, you can avoid a phishing scam too. The main rule is to ALWAYS be alert and be wary of messages and notifications that come with a sense of urgency. If someone tries to push you into doing something out of the blue, there's probably something fishy about it. Not to mention that you can always double-check if the sender does look legitimate.

Online Business Scams

Online scams affect both individuals and businesses alike. While most of the aspects are common across different attacks, there are certain things that differentiate the scams meant for businesses from those that target individuals. Thirdside says that there are five main online scams that target businesses and those are Google business listing scams, online directory listing scams, fancy client lists, guaranteed Google ranking, and the Your Website is Broken scam.

Although the scammers can easily reach businesses via email, actual phone calls are also very common. However, it is clear that you would never get a phone call from Google or from some marketing company, saying that your website is down or that your company has been chosen to be included in some business listing. You can easily recognize a scam if those people ask you to send money or your financial information. Even if some company you're thinking of hiring looks legitimate, you still should do a thorough background check on it because you can never know who you may encounter.

Online Scams Targeting the Elderly

Just like there are scams that target businesses, there are also online scams that target one of the most vulnerable groups out there: the elderly. According to AgingInPlace, scammers do not discriminate the elderly population. They also usually aim to steal as much money as possible. As much as $3 billion is drained from the retirement funds and government benefits in the U.S. almost every year. And we all know that a lot of these fade out unreported, too.

Scamming the elderly often boils down to psychological reasons. This group of society often feels isolated and insecure, so they can be easier to approach and convince to give away money or important information. Everyone must've heard about the staple “grandson” scam when someone gives an elderly person a call impersonating as a grandson who's gotten into serious trouble, and now the grandparent has to bail him out.

But with the internet-savvy population slowly aging, most of the scams aimed at them are moving into the cyberworld, too. Whether it would be scammers that linger in dating sites, scammers who craft sophisticated phishing attacks or social engineering pranks – they all know that targeting the elderly usually pays off because a senior citizen is less likely to report being scammed. Why? Because they get embarrassed when they realize that they have been scammed. Not to mention that a big chunk of the elderly population doesn't know where to report such scams.

How to Trick a Millennial

One would think that it is rather hard to scam a millennial because this is the generation that has the cyberworld at their fingertips. However, when it comes to seeing your favorite artist in a concert, millennials could be easily duped as well. And this is where we come across a very popular type of online scam: ticket frauds.

When tickets to the concert you want to go to get sold out extra fast, you will probably try other means to get them, too. However, it is very dangerous to purchase tickets from resellers. Not only because they might sell it for a far higher price, but these tickets could prove to be fake, as well. Imagine traveling across the country (or worse – to another country!) to this concert, only to find that your ticket is fake!

Frankly, it is rather easy to avoid ticket frauds. You just need to purchase them from the original vendor. Buying tickets from resellers on Amazon or eBay is always risky. But ticket scams aren't the only ones that play with your feelings. There are tons of other scams out there that try to pressure you into giving away your personal information or your money. And if you want to know how to spot online scams, you just need to learn a few don'ts.

How to Avoid an Online Scam

First, you should never send your money to someone you have never seen. Always ask yourself why you're supposed to send your money to that person. Second, be sure to avoid downloading attachments from unsolicited emails. Sometimes the emails look legitimate, but remember that you can always double-check that!

Also, avoid sharing your personal information online. If someone asks for your password, name, credit card details, or anything of the kind; stop and think. It might be a scam! One of the best ways to protect your passwords is by employing a password manager. Because when you have a password manager, you no longer need to worry about remembering all the important data. The tool does that for you, and it most certainly wouldn't fall for an online scam.

And finally, don't feel pressured to take action. Scammers usually win when users rush to do what they are told, and so you should always stop and think before taking the next step. Especially when that step concerns your money or personal data.

May 13, 2019

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