As you innocently read this article, scammers are also insidiously doing same with the aim of knowing your next move. Perhaps, scammers will never completely go away but we can become more vigilant.
Today, hackers and cyber scammers are taking advantage of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic by sending fraudulent email and WhatsApp messages that attempt to trick people into clicking on malicious links or opening attachments.
Even the novel cryptocurrency- Bitcoin- is fraught with scams. One of its biggest draws of bitcoin was the use of blockchains to make the currency secure in our digital world. Unfortunately, digital wallets are still open to hacking, and people are still open to scamming — so, so much scamming.
As a general guide, it important to conduct a research when it comes to online shopping, especially as scammers have become more advanced and people are more active online. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. If something is sold out everywhere but just available on the site you are on, also be suspicious.
The truth is, not much is changing at the turn of the decade, with many of the most popular online scams for 2020 looking like familiar foes. By learning about the most common tactics and pairing that information with security solutions one can be better prepared to face these cyberthreats in the new year.
One of the most popular online scams is what technology experts call “Phishing.” Phishers take on the persona of someone trustworthy – a friend, neighbour or colleague – in an attempt to get you to hand over information or click a malicious link via email, social media or other messaging apps like WhatsApp.
Phishing attempts take place worldwide every single month and while they often take place through email, cybercriminals are expanding their approach to cover wherever you might talk with someone one-on-one on the internet.
How to spot it: The most important step in spotting a phishing attempt is to take your time reviewing the email or message. This will help you spot inconsistencies, like misspelled names, poor grammar in the text and links that do not lead to the place they should.
For the last one, hover over a link with your mouse cursor if you are unsure of it. In the bottom left-hand corner, you will see the full URL – and know if they are sending you to a real or scam website.
At other times, scammers come in form of fake antivirus software. If you are browsing the web and all of a sudden you get a pop up saying that your computer is now infected, chances are it is an online scam.
In reality, these fake antivirus software advertisements and pop ups want you to download their free software, which will only give you a virus, malware or ransomware, among other cyberthreats.
How to spot it: Only trust virus information from your antivirus – and if you do not have one, make sure to get one now.
Be wary of any pop ups with flashy lights or that urge you to take action immediately by downloading an application. A real antivirus solution, will take care of your issues in the background and while it may ask you to take an action, it will likely only notify you once the cyberthreat has been resolved.
The next strategy is the “Make money easy and fast scam.” These scam websites, which often say you can make a month’s worth of salary in just a few hours, lure you in with false promises. They then get you to hand over personal and financial information, often sensitive by nature.
How to spot it: A little bit of common sense goes a long way. While we all dream of being paid large sums of money in exchange for doing nearly nothing, the chances of that being real are slim.
If you are considering a make money easy and fast scam, be on the lookout for advertisements that say it takes little to no skill to get involved, that you can set your own hours or that you need to pay to get started. If the method to earn easy and fast cash really existed, it is unlikely it would be widely shared.
They can also come by way of “Fake shopping websites and formjacking.” There are thousands of websites out there which try to make you believe they are the real deal and a part of your favourite brands. These websites, which are mostly unknown, try to scam you, even giving you “great deals” that are up to 75 percent off.
Similarly, groups of cybercriminals are now commonly using formjacking – a new cyberthreat that steals credit card information. This can happen when a legitimate e-commerce website is hacked (without the owners knowing), allowing cybercriminals to redirect you to different URLs in the payment process that look similar but actually steal your information.
How to spot it: E-commerce scam websites have a few commonalities. They often have similar but not identical URLs to the brand they are trying to imitate. They also likely have spelling errors and unbelievable prices that you won’t find anywhere else – because they are not real. Instead, they either ship fake items to you or take your money and don’t give you anything in return.
Keeping on the lookout for formjacking is more difficult. As you enter the page to put in your credit card details, double check the URL to make sure you are still on the exact same website that you came from. These cybercriminals will often change the URL very slightly – like adding or taking away a single letter – to avoid detection.
New for 2020 are scammers that sell phony COVID-19 travel insurance policies that claim to cover losses for any reason, at no extra charge. Buyers find out the hard way that these policies don’t provide the protection they expected.
Another travel scam involves social media. Scammers post enticing photos on sites like Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram to dupe even the savviest of travelers. Upon clicking the image—which lures clicks through the promise of a free trip or plane tickets—you will be prompted to either complete a survey rife with personal information or open your computer up to secretly malicious software.11
Lottery Scams these days come in form of fake NPower or COVID-19 grants from the federal government. Congratulations! You have won the lottery or some other large amount of money! Except you haven’t. This bogus email comes to you out-of-the-blue and stressing you have won big and that you just need to send over a processing fee or get in touch with someone who can process your winning.
Unless you have entered some legitimate lottery, chances are you have not won the jackpot. When you win the lottery, you contact the appropriate retailer—not the other way around.
Tosin Akinsowon, a Cyber Security Expert in Abuja urges Nigerians to exercise extreme caution when sending sensitive information via email or text.
“Email and texting are convenient and universal, but they’re not particularly secure ways to send information. Tax forms, trade secrets, employee information, credit card numbers, bank or investment account information, or passwords all fall under this category. Call to confirm requests for money or information: Whenever money or information is requested via email, take an extra minute to call whoever made the request directly to confirm it,” he advised.
The Chief Executive Officer of Ecobank, Patrick Akinwuntan, during a recent panel session at the Fintech Nigeria: The State of Play, virtual conference offered tips on how to stay safe online.
He said “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Remember there are no get-rich-quick schemes, the only people who make money are the scammers. Do not let anyone pressurise you into making decisions about money or investments. Always get independent financial and/or legal advice.
“Do not open suspicious or unsolicited email (spam). Delete them. Never reply to a spam email (even to unsubscribe). Never send your personal, credit card or online account details through an email.
“Money laundering is a criminal offence. Do not agree to transfer money for someone else. Don’t let the fact that a letter sounds enticing or genuine trick you.”
So why do people fall victim to scammers every day? Using some of the ideas outlined by psychology professor, Robert Cialdini, here are some psychological reasons why people fall for scams.
Research shows that if a person believes other people are doing something, then they feel it must be okay for them to do it too. This is especially true when individuals find themselves in a pressured and ambiguous situation – such as a sales pitch. If a person on the other end of the phone tells us that 75 per cent of people like us have signed up to this financial scheme, then we are much more likely to do so – even though we might secretly doubt the veracity of such claims.
Fraudsters take advantage of our fragile egos by getting us to commit to little steps that then escalate in nature. For example, by simply getting people to answer their “trivial” questions (how are you today?), the fraudster is getting their prey to fool themselves into believing that they are happy to talk to this unknown person. And, of course, trivial questions lead to more personal ones, like who do you bank with? Having answered one question, it would be inconsistent not to answer another one. And, after all, we like to perceive of ourselves as helpful and polite individuals.
Again, people are generally worried about missing out on an opportunity, perhaps for “the next big thing”. And if such an “offer” is for a limited time only, then the principle of scarcity suggests that people are more likely to be drawn to it.
The principle of similarity suggests that we tend to like people who seem to be the same as us, and, in turn, we are much more likely to agree to a request from someone we like. Similarity can be as broad as an interest in financial investments or as fleeting as sharing some personal characteristics.
Scammers take advantage of this and try to find out things about us in order to appear to be like us. For example, asking your date of birth, and then mentioning that it is their date of birth also, can have the unconscious effect of making you like them more – and hence more likely to agree to their requests.
The Nigeria Police regular issue security guidelines on fraud prevention, and recently, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu alerted Nigerians of a possible increase in new criminal trends especially fraudulent practices and cybercrimes.
Toward nipping the emerging trends in the bud, the IGP has placed the Nigerian branch of the International Police Organization (INTERPOL) on red alert especially to checkmate internet and overseas-based fraudsters who may plan to fleece people of their money.
Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP Frank Mba, Force Public Relations Officer, said, “The IGP’s advice is informed by intelligence at the disposal of the Force which suggests that fraud and cyber-crime are expected to rise at this time owing to the lockdown emplaced by Government at all levels to contain the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. “Specifically, intelligence obtained from the INTERPOL Headquarters shows that scammers in Nigeria and other parts of the globe have begun to create and set up fraudulent websites, e-commerce platforms, fake social media accounts and emails claiming to sell and deliver (COVID-19) medical products.