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How To Spot Common Cyber Scams

Avast, a global leader in privacy and digital security, offered its insights into the most prevalent cyberattacks that rocked 2021. With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, cybercriminals continued to use this event to take advantage of consumers’ vulnerabilities, especially during the lockdown.

Both cryptocurrency malware and ransomware were rampant. When it came to mobile scams, fleece is and adware were prominent threats. 

Michal Salat, the director of threat intelligence at Avast, said:

“The pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of everyone’s lives, and that includes the cyber world too. Attackers’ methods are becoming more sophisticated. Cybercriminals are using techniques that make them harder to spot and carry out more personalized cyber attacks. They are also adding new spins on tried and tested techniques, especially in social engineering type of attacks like scams”.

A New Twist On Existing Scams 

Fraudsters are always on the prowl, looking for a weak link in order to carry out their criminal deeds. The best way to combat this is to stay alert and informed. Here are the latest types of attacks:

Coronavirus and other government program scams

Although most scams related to COVID-19 seem to be dissipating, be on the lookout for new scams that are using the latest variant or the sudden lack of tests. During the early part of 2022, some scammers set up bogus testing sites to collect people’s sensitive information, such as their medical information. Others sold fake at-home tests online.

Government programs are also plagued by scams. Whether the scam uses messaging related to stimulus money, student loan forgiveness, or changes in taxes, always question the legitimacy of the website that is offering the assistance of this kind. 

Always check with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for any updated news on scam alerts. You can also go on the website of the IRS to stay up-to-date with any “tax-related scams”.

Phone Scams

Scammers are always looking for ways to trick unsuspecting consumers by simply calling them. Some of the ways they try to gather information include:

  • Robocalls – These programs call peoples’ phones incessantly, using realistic, natural voice recordings. Some offer vacations or auto warranties.
  • Texts – Consumers now receive texts from unknown numbers. They often include a link to the scammer’s app or website,
  • Impersonators – Some scammers are now impersonating survey takers, relatives, police, and even IRS personnel. They might use “scare tactics” related to your account or criminal record for you to give up your personal information such as the number on your credit card.
  • QR Codes – Scammers will often place QR Codes in very discreet places. If you happen to scan it, this code could prompt you to make a purchase or enter your personal and card information on a “look-alike website”.
  • Apps – Some scammers find a way to convince you to download one of their apps and use it to steal your personal credentials. Worse, they can create an “identical copy” of a popular, already existing app to make money from all in-app purchases. 

One-Time Password Bots

Scammers are now using One-Time Passwords (OTP) bots to deceive people into sharing their authentication codes that were sent via email or text. How it works is that bots might give you a robocall or send you a text, disguising themselves as a legitimate company. 

The robocall may be impersonating a bank and asking you to authorize a charge. It would then tell you to enter the code you were texted, even if it’s not one that you initiated. What the bot is actually trying to do is log into your account. This usually activates the system to send you a code. If you unwittingly share this code, that means the scammer can log into your account. 

Cryptocurrency Scams

As cryptocurrencies continue to experience more popularity and adoption by consumers and businesses alike, scammers are ready to cash in on all the buzz. Scammers are now offering contests, giveaways, fake prizes, and even investment opportunities. 

Scammers have gone so far as to impersonate celebrities or popular crypto websites in order to trick consumers into sending money, “investing” in a project, or sharing login information.

Crypto exchange accounts have also become prime targets of OTP bots as you won’t be able to retrieve your crypto if the scammer ends up draining your account. 

Protect Yourself

Although scams are always evolving, it is important to keep a few things in mind to protect yourself. For example, if someone contacts you via telephone or email and they are impersonating businesses or government agencies, never share personal information such as passwords, usernames, or one-time codes. Protect your identity.

Always research companies before you do business with them. Do a web search and enter the company or organization’s name with the words “scam” right after it to uncover any issues.

If you feel that you have become a victim of a scam, file a report with the FTC as well as your local law enforcement. By filing this report, you could help others avoid these types of scams. 

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