National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and Online Scam Prevention Tips

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM). Now is a great time to assess your security protocols to make sure your users, network, and data are staying safe. In a collaborative effort of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the National Cyber Security Alliance, and other partners, this year’s theme is #BeCyberSmart.

There are many resources available to help reduce cybersecurity risks and protect yourself online.  Click here  to use these resources throughout the year to encourage strong, nationwide cybersecurity.

Online Scams & Prevention Tips

With so many of us currently working from home, technology continues to evolve and cybercriminals continue to find new ways to scam unsuspecting users.

Below is a list of some of the top online scams doing the rounds in 2020 (as if 2020 hasn’t had enough difficulties already):

Phishing Scams are when a scammer sends an email or text trying to trick you into giving them your personal information. You click a link thinking that you're logging into a real account, but the information you enter is sent straight to the scammers. Now the crooks can wipe out your accounts, run up your credit cards, or steal your identity. These scams often involve notices of suspicious activity on your accounts, making you believe you won a lottery, fake invoices, phony government refund offers, and bogus coupons for free stuff.

Takeaway — check the 'From:' email section to verify who sent it. You can click the down arrow next to the sender’s name and it will show you the address. Usually it’s a bogus email. Even if it looks like it’s coming from someone you know, don’t click any links within the text unless it is something coming from someone that you expect.

Ransomware Scams are a type of scam initiated by malicious software or malware distributed by cybercriminals that prevents you from accessing your computer files, systems, or networks. These criminals then demand you pay a ransom to regain access.

Takeaway — speak to your Managed IT Services Provider (MSP) about how to protect your critical and sensitive data from ransomware.

Nigerian 419 Scams, also known as Romance Scams and Advanced Fee Fraud, involve someone trying to convince you to pay them money with the promise of a greater reward. They've just won the lottery, for example, and they'll split the winnings with you if you help them get the funds out of the country by paying a fee. Romance scammers, meanwhile, build an online relationship with their victims, trying to gain your affections to get money and personal information.

Takeaway — never send money to someone you don’t know.

Mystery Shopping Scams send you a check, instructing you to cash it and then wire a portion of that money back to the “employer.” The checks are actually bogus so you’re sending them your own money.

Takeaway — anyone you work for pays you, not the other way around. Don’t be coerced into paying for certifications, fees, or courses.

Reshipping & Payment Processing Fraud is more like "Help wanted to illegally launder money on behalf of criminals."  Victims can find themselves not only involved in illegal activity but also liable for any amount of transferred and associated fees.

Takeaway — don’t do it.

Pump & Dump Stock Scams send many emails pretending to disclose confidential information about a particular stock in an attempt to inflate the price. The scammers then sell the stocks and reap a bigger return.

Takeaway — watch out for unsolicited emails about penny stocks, promises of guaranteed returns, and unregistered stocks or brokerage firms.

Hitman Scams are pretty scary and prevalent online. Scammers use details from your life, mostly gleaned from social media and other online websites, to send you an email letting you know that an alleged assassin is targeting you. You either pay up or die.

Takeaway — safeguard your personal information, especially on social media.

Scareware Scams erroneously claim that your system has been infected with a virus and the only way to fix it is to buy their bogus anti-virus software. They prey upon your fear or lack of computer knowledge.

Takeaway — never open strange attachments, don’t run strange executable files (ending in .exe), and don’t download anti-virus software from companies you don’t trust.

Crowdfunding is a way for creators to get paid for work they produce, or raise money for a worthy cause, but their scams take that money for nothing in return.

Takeaway — before you contribute to a GoFundMe or Kickstarter or Indiegogo funding campaign, do some research on the company that you are considering contributing to. Have they launched other crowdfunding campaigns? Did backers receive what was promised? See if a quick Google search reveals any issues before committing any cash.

Tech Support Scams make unsolicited calls claiming to help you fix a problem or telling you your PC has a virus. They may try to remote in to your computer system or get you to spend money on unnecessary repairs or bogus anti-virus software.

Takeaway — if your computer has any issues, contact someone you can trust to help fix them. Tech companies like Microsoft or Apple will never ask you for your password!

Greeting Card Scams arrive in your in-box pretending to be from a friend or family member. They ask you to click a link to view a card.

Takeaway — don’t! These are scammers using malware to harvest your personal data. Don’t click a link that ends in .exe as it is an executable file intent to install a virus on your system. Delete it if you don’t recognize the sender or if it says it’s from a secret admirer. If you do know the sender, ask that person if they sent you an email.

Online predators are taking advantage of people who have been at home – and on their computers – much more than usual. Be aware, be vigilant. If in doubt, don’t click. Ask a trusted friend or check with your Managed IT Services Provider if you have any concerns. Stay safe!