This Christmas is set to be a stormer, especially in the realms of online shopping. However, not everyone’s expecting to pay for their gifts, in fact, there are lots of people who are aiming to use this festive time to their advantage, setting online traps for people just like you and me to fall into.
Here are twelve Cyber Scams to be on the lookout for this Christmas:
Don’t be fooled by “fake messages!”
They’ve been around for ages and we’ve all seen a fair few, I’m sure. Scammers simply send you an email and attempt to make you follow a link. From there, you’ll be led to a fake website where you’ll be prompted to type in your account details, or something similar. If it’s not a website they’re hoping you’ll visit, then the link itself can sometimes contain a download, where your computer automatically installs a bunch of “malware”. Malware is used by fraudsters to see what you do on your computer and can even allow them to record everything you type (including passwords, credit card numbers, bank details and more).
If you suspect something, call the company that sent the email (if they’re a reputable company then they’ll be more than happy to help) and ask if it’s really what it seems.
2) The Fake Virus Scanner
Reputable companies that sell or provide anti-virus software would never inundate you with spam or pop-ups and nor would they offer “online virus checkers” or “virus scanners” that you can use through your browser whilst visiting other sites. As such, if you ever surf the web and click on a link that leads to a pop-up appearing, telling you that a number of threats have been found, “run this simple check” or anything along those lines… Don’t do it!
If you’re ever in doubt, just download any number of free, high-quality virus scanners and they’ll do the trick – never initiate a virus scan online.
Online scanners are, more often than not, just a ploy to have their malicious software installed on your computer. It’s not worth the risk!
3) The Fake “Upgrade”
Have you ever tried to watch a video online, when all of a sudden a message appears telling you that you don’t have the right software to watch it, followed by a prompt to “simply download the latest version here?” Well, unfortunately most of the time it’s people trying to mimic Adobe Flash or the Adobe Reader. They’re not the only ones, but they’re the most popular.
By clicking those download links, to “upgrade” your software, you’re actually going to end up downloading malware – software used by malicious people to see what you’re doing on your computer.
Worse yet, in some cases, clicking on that link will also result in an email being sent from your email account, to all of your friends telling them to upgrade as well. This is where a whole world of trouble begins.
It’s better to just ignore pop-ups like that, and if the video you’re trying to watch really doesn’t work, just contact the website (YouTube, Google, Vimeo, etc.) describing the issue. In most cases, if your browser is up to date (and you can always check that by searching “latest version of [enter your browser name here]” and download that from a recognised company.
An up-to-date browser will, most likely, have the plug-ins you need to surf the web as you intend to.
4) Using real, “current news” to exploit your kindness
It’s unbelievable to think that some people could stoop so low, but we’ve seen it happen many, many times; the most recent of which was during Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Scammers and fraudsters immediately go about setting up really clever websites, that look very real indeed, asking people to “donate.”
Well, little do people realise that any more donated through those sites goes straight to the fraudsters’ pockets, nowhere else.
Beware – always check with the local press as to which organisations are trying to help and you’ll often find the best places to donate!
5) The “cracked” software download.
With so many of us buying new computers or laptops over the festive season, and with their associated products costing an arm and a leg, it’s not uncommon for some people to seek out an alternative means to get the software they need.
But, scammers are on to you and they’ll offer up a heap of really nifty, really necessary and really expensive software, for “free”. Usually presented as links or ads saying things like, “Click here to download Adobe CS6 Master Suite for free” or, “Cracked MS Office for free.” There are many more examples, but just be aware that clicking on those links, despite their contents containing illegal, pirated software, often come with other hidden gifts too: viruses.
Always download from reputable sources only.
6) The Drive-By/Stop-Off Download
Sometimes you could browse the web without clicking anything weird, or at least you think you didn’t, but little did you know that the site you just visited to buy your brother a gift was actually fake. Ok, so you didn’t buy because maybe the company didn’t present itself well enough (which is sometimes an indication, in itself, that the site isn’t legit), but nonetheless you continued your search.
Unfortunately, sites that look completely normal sometimes contain malware or virus download links that you don’t even need to click or confirm you interest in before they leak onto your machine.
Always have the latest, real virus checker on your machine and make sure your browser is up-to-date. Although doing this won’t guarantee your protection, it will most certainly improve it… a lot!
7) Free “WIFI”… Yeah right.
Be careful when you’re shopping around the high streets and you suddenly stumble on “Free” WIFI. Added to that, you may want to check your phone or device to ensure that it won’t automatically connect to networks without your consent.
Unfortunately, scammers set up fake WIFI networks in the hope that people will sign in, browse the web, purchase something and then BAM! They have your card details!
Whenever you want to use “Free” WIFI, check with the company that’s supposedly providing it to ensure that it’s really what it says it is, first.
8) The WIFI Probe
Similar to the 7th scam, listed above, this little trick exploits your mobile phone or device’s ability to log on to WIFI networks that it remembers.
When your WIFI is turned on and you’re not in range of one of your preferred networks, your phone or mobile device constantly sends out requests to those networks to log in. With that, fraudsters will sometimes set up special, and very clever, WIFI networks that simply read the request and form a fake WIFI network that looks exactly like the one your device would usually connect to.
When you’re out and about, remember to turn your WIFI off until you need it – this will prevent any nasty surprises down the line.
9) A combination of the last two scams
This scam is similar to both 7 and 8 – it involves the same technology that your devices and laptops use to connect to pre-recognised WIFI networks (i.e. the networks you usually connect to).
This time, the setup is a little different; scammers will set up a “Catch” network, which simply tells your device that it can connect because it fools your phone, tablet or laptop into thinking that it’s the same network that you’d usually connect to. From there, you’ll find that the scammy network doesn’t work… after all, it was never supposed to work. It’s aim is simply to catch your WIFI login details so that fraudsters can then access your home, office or other preferred network settings and passwords, thereby giving them the ability to login remotely, and access all of the information you send and receive over that network.
Again, just be careful about keeping your WIFI turned on when you’re on the move.
10) The insecure website
Nope, we’re not talking about a website that thinks it’s not the best website in the world… we’re talking about the fact that the site you’re about to use may not have an encrypted security system. You can tell which ones do and which ones don’t, usually by a small Padlock Icon that shows up in the URL or address bar of your browser. Another good clue is if the website’s address begins with https instead of http. The “S” signifies “Secure”.
If you enter your payment details into a website that isn’t secure, you run the risk of having those details hacked by other third parties (scammers), or even stored by the website you’re using.
Always check the security of the site you’re using… especially if you’re going to be buying something from it.
11) The Man in The Middle (MiTM)
The Man in The Middle isn’t actually a man, but a nifty little piece of software that’s there to help you – RUBBISH! It just seems like it’s there to help, but in fact it’s there, reading everything you’re typing and sending it, like a little spy, back to the people who made it.
Usually these applications come as “Add-ons” or “Plug-ins” that you can install on your browser, and they often claim to be things like Virus checkers, shopping calculators, price comparison tools, Malware scanners and the like.
If you think you may have already installed one of these pesky pests, then simply go into your browser’s settings and remove or uninstall any “Add-ons” that you think aren’t necessary or that don’t really do what they say they do.
12) The Phone Call
Fraudsters are so clever these days, that they can even hack into huge department store’s files and see who’s bought what and when. With that, imagine you’ve just bought a new laptop for your partner, and while you’re setting it up you run into a small problem that gets you a bit flustered. All of a sudden, the phone rings. “Ah, fantastic!” you think to yourself as the voice on the other end introduces themselves as a representative of Apple, Google, Dell, HP or whatever the specific brand of your new laptop may be.
They’ll pretend that they’re there to help you, when in fact they’ll ask you for your login details, “so that they can login to your computer and help you through the settings”… but actually as soon as they get the details, they’ll tell you that your problems are solved, or sometimes actually help you, only to log in to your computer when you least expect it. From there, the sky’s the limit – they’ll hack and tap into everything you run on your machine in the hope that they’ll snap up some important and personal information, like card and bank details.
Always double check who’s calling, where from and why – and better yet, ask how they know you were having issues!
Unfortunately, there are many more than just 12 scams to be on the lookout for, but we thought we’d bring these to your attention because these are the most likely to crop up for the average person.
A successful scam relies very heavily on context – if it appears useful, personal or relevant, it’s more likely to be successful.
Just remember; if it’s too good to be true, it usually is.
Call Precise Investigation today on 1300 856 011 for a professional, Private Investigation Service
If you feel that you’ve fallen victim to a scam, call Precise Investigation today and we’ll be more than happy to provide assistance, give guidance on how to improve your defences and investigate the issue.
We have Private Investigators across main cities all over Australia including, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart, so just give us a call today and one of our PI’s will be there to help.
Image credit: Thank you Pexels.com