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Identifying and Avoiding Online Scams
Eric McKinney
/ Categories: Community, Security

Identifying and Avoiding Online Scams

Identifying and Avoiding Online Scams

Anyone who spends time online, has a cell phone, uses email, or receives text messages will likely find themselves being targeted by a scammer at some point. In fact, checking your spam folder could very possibly reveal a long list of potentially malicious emails that never made it to your inbox. Fortunately, most scams share some common traits that make them easy to identify and avoid. You simply need to know what to look for.

The Obvious Offenders

Sometimes scam messages and malicious websites are easily identified by their amateurish appearance, misspelled words, and phrases rife with grammatical errors. These types of errors likely wouldn't be found in the messages or websites of legitimate entities.

In some instances, words are deliberately misspelled or may have a single letter omitted by their authors. This is a tactic used to get emails past spam filters that are scanning for specific keywords commonly found in malicious messages.

Another sure sign that you're dealing with a scammer is that you are being offered a huge amount of money or some other outrageous reward or prize. All you have to do to get the reward or prize is follow the instructions provided. Learn more about spotting Phishing Emails at Eaton Community Bank.

Fear or Greed

Fear and greed can be great motivators. They allow bad actors to manipulate their victims and persuade them to send money or provide sensitive information. That's why scammers use them so frequently.

It's not unusual for a cybercriminal to claim that they represent a governmental entity like the IRS or a law enforcement agency. They may tell their victims that a tax payment or traffic fine is overdue and may even threaten them with arrest if they fail to submit payment immediately. In sextortion scams, attackers threaten to send humiliating videos of their targets to email contacts including employers, friends, or family members if they refuse to send money. These videos, supposedly showing the victim viewing porn, almost never exist, but the fear that they might makes the scam effective.

Scammers may use greed as a tool by telling their targets that they are entitled to some sort of refund or payment from a government agency. They might say that the victim is eligible to win some prize or vacation or that they have inherited something from a distant relative. All they need to do is follow instructions to collect.

These are but a few examples, but you get the idea.

This is Urgent!

Con artists don't want to give you time to think about the claims they make or to verify the information they provide. That's why they very commonly impose short deadlines on their targets or tell them that they must act immediately. Send the fine now or a warrant will be issued and you'll be arrested. Provide this banking information immediately so a transfer of funds can be made before this prize offer expires. Your relative is in a bind and needs your immediate help, so send money. These are good indicators that you are dealing with a criminal.

Just Pay This Small Upfront Fee

Scammers may claim that before you collect some award, you'll need to first remit a small fee to verify your payment card information. They may say that this is required in order to set up the transfer of your prize money. The amount requested is usually insignificant when compared to the award you'll supposedly get. Sometimes scammers even promise the fee will be refunded once everything is completed. You will not receive a refund or an award, and you've just provided your payment card data to a criminal who will now use it to steal as much of your money as possible.

Malicious Websites

Even if you're careful, there is always a possibility that you'll end up clicking a link in an email, text, or social media message that takes you to a malicious website. While there, you may be asked to provide personal data to complete an online form or survey. You could encounter an animation that makes it look as though a database search is being conducted to determine whether you have won some sort of prize. To make things look more legitimate, you might be provided with a link to fake reviews supposedly written by previous prize winners. Lately, sites have been found to be using bots to impersonate attorneys or technical support personnel. These bots interact with, and extract data from, site visitors. Many of these sites eventually will ask their visitors to submit a payment to cover a fee or service.

It's never a good idea to click on links in emails, texts, or social media messages unless you are certain that they came from someone you trust. Even if that is the case, if something about the message seems strange or suspicious, contact the sender directly using a phone number you know to be correct and verify that they did, in fact, send the message before you click on a link.

In Closing

Cybercriminals are using some of the same tactics employed by their con artist predecessors decades ago. That's because they still work. They offer big rewards for those who do as requested or threaten those who fail to cooperate with serious consequences. They impose short deadlines by which their potential victims must act. They don't want them to have time to consider or verify their claims.

Perhaps the most useful information you can take away is that you should not allow yourself to be rushed into performing some action or providing sensitive information, nor should you be denied the opportunity to do some research into the claims being made. If they are legitimate, those making them should have no problem with you verifying them. And always listen to that little voice that alerts you when something just doesn't seem right.

If you do believe you are the victim of fraud or security breach, please contact Eaton Community Bank at 517.543.3880 or toll-free at 866.699.3372 or send an email to support@eaton.bank.

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