There’s never been a more important time to be vigilant about scams and tricks online. Online scams don’t have to be related to phishing and hacking – as plenty of confidence tricksters have continued putting their online connections to use as years have gone by. When browsing and shopping online, how can you be sure that you’re not at risk of falling prey to a scammer of some kind? The short answer, unfortunately, is that you can never be sure – but there are, thankfully, more than a few ways to prepare yourself in case of the worst ever coming your way.
Here is our brief guide to some of the biggest scams and tricks which have been taking place online across 2018 – and which may well continue into 2019 and beyond. Read on and educate yourself – and be as safe as you possibly can online!
Many business owners have been worried about the recent introduction of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which allows scammers to prey on the vulnerable. In the most recent scam to be appearing in people’s inboxes, an email is being sent out from the so-called ‘UK Non-Compliance Register’, warning business owners that they are not GDPR compliant – and therefore directing them to a broken link. Stay aware of such scams and make sure you are 100% sure that emails are legitimate before clicking on any links.
While Apple’s iPhones are largely protected against most common viruses and exploits as a result of their unique hardware and software, Android smartphones and standards are much more open to attacks and exploitation. It’s not just your PC or laptop which runs the risk of getting attacked by viruses – which means it makes plenty of sense to set yourself up with an internet security suite that allows you to add in an app or two for any phones or tablets you may be using along the way. These threats, according to experts, are only likely to grow in the years to come.
While savvier and more experienced web users may be able to easily tell the difference between a legitimate deal and a fake opportunity, many scammers are getting more and more sophisticated in their approaches. Therefore, it’s not unheard of for money mules to directly target users such as students and the elderly for a bit of extra cash. From money laundering to fake pages and deals which seem too good to be true, there is a minefield of scamming out there across Facebook and beyond – which means it’s really going to pay for you to be vigilant and cautious with the deals you enter into.
Protecting yourself against hacking has never been more important, particularly when so many big websites and apps have fallen prey to sophisticated attacks in recent years. Therefore, there’s never been a better time to start auditing your passwords, your email accounts and to keep your systems fully up to date. Make sure you always use passwords which are strong and difficult to guess – use password manager programs to create long chains of characters and numbers for the ultimate in security if you are ever in doubt. This has never been more crucial than for your email accounts, which can be used to impersonate you online should they fall into the wrong hands.
When browsing, shopping or socialising online, common sense should always be something you use on a day to day basis. If you see a deal that sounds too good to be true, it very likely is – unless you know it is from a reputable source. Don’t recognise a link or brand? Click no further, even if you are browsing via mobile. What’s more, be smart about the payment methods you use online. Bank transfers, for example, offer little to no protection when it comes to fraudulent activity. Card issuers offer protection as standard, oftentimes – as do eWallets such as PayPal, whom you can register complaints with should issues ever arise.
Yes, even in the day and age where some of the most ridiculous scam emails are published and dissected online, plenty of people still fall easily for emails being delivered by reportedly legitimate sources. If there is ever any doubt with regard to the veracity of an email you have received, it is always worth consulting with the legitimate firm directly. Across the board, banks and card issuers will never ask you for sensitive information such as your PIN or CV2. Do also be careful with any links which may arrive in emails you aren’t sure about – if it seems risky, don’t click it! Some spam emails and fakes are easy to spot – but even the most sophisticated of mail filters can allow for the more effective scam emails to seep through.
Investment scams are nothing new, of course, but with Brexit being prevalent in the minds of many UK citizens in recent months, the situation has led to a spate of scammers approaching web users with unsolicited ‘deals’ occurring as a result of the UK leaving the European Union. Many investment scams work through social engineering and confidence tricks, meaning that despite some approaches being unsolicited, many have found themselves buying into phony deals as a result of the perfect patter. The bottom line – once again – is to remember if something seems too good to be true, it very likely is.
Even auction sites such as eBay are likely to fall prey to scams throughout the year. While the platform has gotten better at filtering out fakes and scams through its enhanced feedback system, there is still a chance of you transferring money over for a product or two which simply won’t arrive. To this end, once again, be careful making bank transfers. When buying online, only ever use credit cards or services such as PayPal which offer guaranteed protection.
Finally, believe it or not, there is plenty of money for scammers in producing fake websites! There has recently been a case of mass passport fakery taking place through false websites set up to ape official sources. Don’t fall victim to clever fakes – check security certificates, and question any and all fees requested of you.
While it is not always easy to spot an online fake, it is always worth exercising caution. Using common sense – and questioning everything you read – are great ways to stay safe.