I recently engaged in a discussion with some of my colleagues about the intersection of cybersecurity and the scams that so many of us deal with every day, like those annoying phone scams.
Scams are everywhere, so if you’ve fallen victim, you aren’t alone. Here’s what we recommend.
When We Say Scam, What Do We Mean?
We’re going to be discussing a scope of deceptive practices aimed at coaxing individuals into surrendering their time, energy, money, or other valuable assets through manipulation, fear, or emotional tactics.
As a result, it’s important to remember that, while the computer is often the vehicle that gets the scam to you, it is by no means necessary for many scams to take place.
Let’s review some scams that are common to see today:
- Account issues or password scams, where fake emails or text messages claim account problems, urging recipients to log in through a fraudulent link to steal their credentials.
- Fake charity scams, where someone poses as a fraudulent charity in order to steal real money.
- Debt collection scams, where someone pretends to be a debt collector to collect a debt, real or fake.
- Settlement and debt relief scams, where someone reaches out to settle or renegotiate a debt, in actuality just taking your money.
- Mortgage scams cover a wide variety of scams where a scammer poses as a party that will collect closing costs and mortgage payments, which can potentially lead to the scammer owning your home.
- Imposter scams, these are commonly found on social media, where a scammer poses as someone you know or an authority figure to try to convince you to send them money.
- Romance scams, which—in a particularly underhanded way—fool the victim into thinking they are in a relationship so they are more willing to hand over money when asked.
- Grandparent scams, when someone is contacted by a “relative” who is “in desperate need of financial help,” and requests the transfer of money.
- Mail fraud, when—a legitimate-looking piece of mail is designed to get you to respond with money or personal information.
- Lottery and prize scams, where—you’re alerted that you’ve won something, you just need to pay the fees and taxes to claim it.
- Mobile payment fraud, legitimate wallet apps (like PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle) are used by scammers to request money from victims, just to see if they’ll get a bite.
- Online sales fraud, similarly, takes place on marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and similar platforms that enable scammers to collect payments and never send a product.
- Money mules, which technically isn’t a scam, per se, but it is not uncommon for scammers to use unsuspecting victims as the in-between as money changes hands.
While this is in no way a comprehensive list, it does prove effective at showcasing the extensive landscape of deceptive practices.
Again, scammers employ various communication methods, not just emails, such as phone calls, text messages, physical meetings, television ads, website ads, and social media. Many of these scams work to create an urgent atmosphere, pressuring their targets to act impulsively.
Notably, scams like grandparent and imposter schemes often exploit emotions by convincing victims that a loved one is in danger.
Scams are pervasive in daily life. Most of us have grown accustomed to ignoring calls from unknown numbers, never mind those labeled “Scam Likely.” Many of us have spent hours scrolling past unsolicited or suspicious emails.
Age and demographics play a role, with Gen Z reporting higher rates of victimization in online scams. Older adults, particularly Baby Boomers, reportedly encounter at least one scam every hour. Older generations may underreport scams, trying to avoid shame.
Falling for a Scam Does Not Mean You’re Stupid
It’s crucial to dispel the notion that falling victim to a scam reflects one’s intelligence. The sheer volume of scams the average person navigates daily is overwhelming. Vulnerability arises in novel situations, such as the first-time home-buying process or emotional grandparent scams. Reporting scams and sharing experiences is essential, as it contributes to a collective awareness that can help others avoid falling prey, as well as makes the scammers’ jobs that much harder.
This is because scammers operate most effectively where there’s a lack of general awareness. While cybersecurity measures are vital, awareness remains the primary defense against scams. Education to help recognize and resist scam tactics is imperative for individuals, as even robust cybersecurity measures may not prevent all forms of deception.
Our clients know that if they encounter anything raising suspicions, they shouldn’t hesitate to reach out. Our goal is to protect local businesses, and we’re available for discussions on cybersecurity and safeguarding your business and its personnel.
TWINTEL Solutions has grown into an expansive, full team of IT services professionals, acting as the outsourced IT department of non-profits, small to mid-size businesses, and enterprise-level corporations.