Scammers are getting increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to get your money or personal details. Their ultimate goal is to exploit their target though morally wrong means such as lying, tricking or harassing until they get what they want. Avoiding users with malicious intent isn’t easy and there are always going to be people like that online, but it’s good to know there are ways to protect yourself
Scams target everyone
Scams target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels across Australia. There’s no one group of people who are more likely to become a victim of a scam, it’s fair game. Scams succeed because they look authentic and catch you off guard when you’re not expecting it. They exploit the desire to be polite, respectful and generous, as well as the adrenaline and excitement people get when they are informed they’ve won something. Scammers often do an act known as ‘phishing’, which simply means that they only want your bank account, credit card details and passwords.
Types of Scams
These scams come in all shapes and sizes. Ranging from a pop up window saying that you’re their 10,000th viewer and have won a new iPad, to impersonators pretending to be Microsoft and saying they have found a virus on your computer. Since there are so many places you can come across a potential advertisement or email that is dangerous for your computer, it’s easy to mistake them for something legitimate. As time and technology progresses, scammers are becoming more perceptive and crafty with their scams.
Sure, everyone has had a tele-marketer call their phone asking if they want to buy a new mop, and it’s common knowledge now that you can just hang up, or joke around with them if you aren’t interested because why would you listen to this person up-sell a $50 mop when the one at Kmart down the road has one that does the same thing for $15? Seems easy enough to avoid and not fall for, right?
Well what if you got a call from someone saying, “Hello, I’m a representative of Microsoft and we have detected a very harmful virus on your computer.” A lot of people may panic. Imagine being told your precious computer full of family photos and documents, is in danger. Of course, a natural first reaction is to ask them to fix it, and that means giving them access to your computer.
They may ask you to go onto your computer and grant them permission to access it, and you might see some screens pop up or some coding. The way it looks from the surface seems completely legit; and that’s why so many people fall for it. Unfortunately, they lied about who they were and by giving them access, they can now see everything on your device. Every saved password, every file and every program.
After they have ‘fixed’ your computer they will ask for a credit card to pay for the ‘service’ provided. If refused money some will lock the computer until money is given. Some may even ask for multiple payments, requesting a moderate amount at first, then later demanding more be paid.
However avoiding these scammers is no different to a tele-marketer, and it only takes one simple step to avoid these. Hang up the phone.
Some good things to know about phone scams:
- Microsoft themselves will never call you. If you have an issue or question, you have to call their customer service and not the other way around.
- The only time you may be alerted of dangers on your computer is by anti-virus software such as Windows Defender.
- Scammers cannot do anything until you grant them access
- NEVER give out personal information to someone online or over the phone
- If a scammer accesses your details, change your passwords as soon as possible
- When you’re unsure if your computer is safe or has a virus, take it to a professional
While some are more obvious than others, email scams have been around for a while and are still insanely common. They start as advertisements about ‘The New Diet Pill that Has All The Doctors Mad!’ and a woman who is ’70 but looks 30 thanks to a miracle cream’, simple stuff that some people believe but is easy to spot out when it’s a fake. Then they escalate, saying there’s a ‘package at the Post Office so download the receipt to go collect it’, and even emails from insurance companies and Paypal saying you have overdue bills. As legitimate as they seem, these emails either want you to type in your credit card details or accidentally download a virus inside a document they send. The viruses generally look for your passwords or account information, and can even be ransom ware.
There are always ways to avoid getting caught
Before opening the email consider these questions:
- Who sent the email? Does it seem sketchy?
- Are you affiliated with the company who emailed you?
- Are there spelling mistakes? (Scam emails usually have typos)
- Is the text generic? (“Hi valued customer!” instead of your name)
- Have you received an email from them before?
If the email is a spam email, delete it straight away. Replying to these accounts confirm that you actively use the address they messaged and may result in more spam being sent to you.
It’s never a bad idea to do some research on companies that email you out of seemingly nowhere. For example, AusPost don’t send emails if there’s a package for you to collect but instead they mail you a card. The only time PayPal send emails when changes occur to your account/their policies or if you send or receive payments. If you get an email you’re unsure about, go to the company website and call their customer support.
Emails from a friend are always nice and usually extremely trust worthy. Though you may just send letters to catch up, documents for work and school or pictures there’s always a chance that it’s not safe. Some scammers try to target your email with the purpose of using it to send messages to your contacts and phishing them for information. If you ever are sent an email from a friend that looks shifty don’t be afraid to ask them if it was them, or just delete it.
Pop Up Scams
Pop Up Scams tend to work based on the shock factor. Similarly to phone scams, some sites may open a link to pages that claim there’s danger. Some can be very difficult to close, or begin downloading some form of software to your computer. A lot of these are accompanied by flashing colours and loud noises such as sirens or a voice recording. Tactics like these are what scammers use to start your ‘fight or flight’ response in the hopes that you’ll panic. The outcome is usually either clicking a link to fix the problem they stated was there, or not being able to close the tabs in time before something is downloaded.
These may also be dangerous to people who are sensitive to loud, disruptive noises and flashing lights. While they’re used without warning unfortunately there is little repercussion for sites using these tactics.
Pop Ups are generally easy to avoid, however some of the following may cause them to appear:
- Downloading or Torrents
- Playing Games on an Unsafe Website
- Streaming Movies and TV Shows online
- Using Online Video Converters
- Adult Entertainment Websites
Secure Services like Netflix and safe downloads from official websites (such as Adobe or Microsoft) will NOT cause Pop Ups to occur.
Most scammers avoid questions that can catch them out and prove they’re illegitimate. Just asking questions, like requesting their address, can catch them off guard as most are based overseas.
It is illegal for a foreign business to sell overseas investments to Australians if they do not have an AFS licence. Australian companies also need an AFS licence to legally sell investments in Australia.
Taking caution never hurts. The more users proceed with that extra bit of caution when online the less scammers can catch out innocent people who may not know how easy it is to get scammed. The biggest advice that anyone can give about online safety is to never assume that you can trust what you see.
Not everything you see on the internet is true.
The Computer Guy