As helpful and wonderful as the internet may be when it comes to information and communication, it does have its problems. One big one is the online revolution of scams.
Because they can use it to easily hide their identities, scammers love the internet. Not to mention the convenience with which they can strike thousands of people at a time.
So, how do you avoid these fraudsters?
Email has made it more convenient than ever for scammers to cast a wide net in their efforts to catch unwitting victims. Email phishing has occurred for just about as long as email has existed, for the simple reason that it continues to work.
Some of the classics include offers for millions of dollars from African princes or winnings of supposed sweepstakes. All you have to do is give them your banking information, Social Security Number, etc.
With these kinds of phishing emails, you hopefully know better than to fall for their outlandish promises. But next to these clumsier efforts to get your financial information, there are subtler ones, approaches that you may not immediately be able to identify as fake. You may get supposed communications from your bank, your boss, or the government, with links that actually lead to spoofed websites or that load malware onto your computer. Both options enable scammers to access your information.
To avoid falling victim to email phishing scams, hover your cursor over links to see if they go to legitimate websites. Verify the sender’s email. And note the tone and grammar of the email for errors and/or a particularly urgent tone. All of these things are red flags for a scam.
If you’re still unsure, don’t click on anything or reply to the email. Contact the supposed sender directly to verify the legitimacy of the email.
When it comes to your more sophisticated scamming efforts, this is where email phishing or text smishing can lead. Scammers essentially create a duplicate of a legitimate website—same layout, logos, content, everything—with the intention of compelling you to log-in. By the time you realize that you are not actually on an official website, the scammer has your log-in information that they can use to access your account on the real site.
If a scammer goes to the effort of duplicating a website, they aren’t about to do anything halfway. That means that it can be difficult to tell if a site is fake or not. But there can be some tells.
In the main field where a site’s URL is shown, you should see what looks like a padlock right in front of the web address. The presence of that lock tells you that the site and your connection to it is secure. If you don’t see a lock, the opposite is probably true; the site is illegitimate or, at least unsafe, which means you should leave it asap. And, while the page you’re may look genuine at a glance, closer inspection could reveal small mistakes: a logo with pixelated edges, colors that are just a bit paler or darker than normal. It could just feel…off.
Before entering any information, you can also try the cursor hover technique over any links on the page to see where they actually go. And simply trust your instincts. If something seems odd about a site, just leave it.
In short, yes, scammers are everywhere. But no, you don’t have to be a victim. With a little vigilance and common sense, you can protect yourself from all kinds of scams, no matter where they happen. Do also read our guides which help you keep your personal data safe online and help you stay safe when using messaging apps such as Skype.