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phishing internet scams

While scammers have been around since the beginning of time, the internet and social media have made it faster and easier for bad actors to prey on people, and their methods of operation are slicker than ever. Following are some common scams to be aware of, as well as tips to keep yourself safe.

Common online and social media scams

  • Phishing is still one of the most common cybercrimes, as it continues to be so effective. Phishers mimic someone trustworthy such as a friend or coworker, and they request that you share information or click a malicious link via email, social media or a messaging app.1
    • Carefully review the message and look for misspelled names and poor grammar Before clicking on a link, hover over it with your mouse cursor. In the bottom left-hand corner, you’ll see the full URL, which can help you determine if it’s a legitimate or scam website.
  • Fake antivirus software. If you’re online and receive a pop up saying that your computer is infected, it’s likely a scam. If you don’t have antivirus software on your computer, now is the time to get it.
  • Cryptocurrency scams. Cryptocurrency is a form of payment that can be exchanged online for goods and services, similar to arcade tokens or casino chips. In order to access the goods or service, you need to exchange real currency for the cryptocurrency. As it is speculative with murky areas, scams are very common.2
    • Any promises of guaranteed large returns or claims that your cryptocurrency will be multiplied are always scams.3
    • A sure sign of a cryptocurrency scam is if a caller, organization, or anyone else insists on cryptocurrency for payment or funds transfer.
  • “Clickbait” – Clickbait is designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink, which may lead to malicious content of questionable value.
  • “https vs. http” When online shopping, always look for “https” (not “http”) and the padlock icon in the address bar to ensure there’s a secure connection between you and the website. Don’t rely on this alone, though, as some scam websites use “https”.3
  • Requested payment via non-secure payment methods, such as wire, bank or international funds transfers, money orders, pre-loaded gift cards, or cryptocurrency. Look for secure payment options such as PayPal or credit card.
  • Impersonation schemes come in many forms, such as “executive impersonation”, where an email is sent from what appears to be your company’s executive requesting urgent action often dealing with finances.

How to Avoid Online and Social Media Scams

  • Never share personal information (such as telephone number, address, bank account number and Social Security number) or click on a link from an unsolicited email, text message or pop-up ad.4
  • Create a strong password, a minimum of seven characters with a mix of upper and lower case letters, symbols, and numbers, and never share your password with someone you do not know or do not trust.
  • Delete unsolicited emails and text messages that request personal or account information. If there is a real security breach, most companies contact their customers in writing to alert them of the breach.

 

What to do if you think you’ve been scammed and how to report it

  • Stop all contact with the scam artist and block his or her phone numbers, instant messages, and email addresses.
  • Keep copies of all communications.
  • Report the matter to the social media website.
  • Report the matter to your local police department.
  • Report it as soon as possible to the Federal Trade Commission, the federal government agency responsible for protecting consumers.
  • Report the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center

 

While online, if you have any concerns, stop, don’t rush to action, and research the information independently (for example, search Google for the entity or request in question and use a keyword such as “scam”). Remember, when in doubt, trust your instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.

 

Are you a business owner? Here are some tips to keep your business cyber-safe. Consider purchasing cyber liability insurance as well.

 

For additional tips, visit these sites:

https://IdentityTheft.gov

https://Donotcall.gov

https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/

https://www.usa.gov/online-safety

 

Sources:

  1. Norton
  2. NerdWallet
  3. ScamWatch
  4. Social Media Scams

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Erica Dalton

Merchants Insurance Group

Merchants Insurance Group sells its products through a network of more than 1,000 independent insurance agents in Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. We sell our products through independent insurance agents because we believe they provide value to policyholders through their broad range of products and their insurance expertise.