UNITED STATES—Online fraud has been around for a long time, but the methods and techniques have evolved. For example, email phishing scams have become more sophisticated and difficult to spot as they use more than just an email address to lure victims in.
This blog post will look at three prevalent types of online fraud, and their evolution: email phishing scams, social engineering scams, and ransomware attacks. We’ll also look at what we can do to protect ourselves from these types of scams.
Social Engineering Scams
Social engineering scams are highly targeted, where attackers don’t go after anyone in particular, but rather leverage the trust the victim has built over time in their work, profession, or social circles.
In the early days of the internet, chat rooms were a lot more popular, and so was anonymity. In these forums, perpetrators would befriend their victims and slowly gain their trust, getting them to divulge personal information over time.
However, these days everyone has a social media account, and freely gives up personal information. Security questions such as “What is your mother’s maiden name?” or “What is the name of the first pet you owned?” are probably things you’ve shared on your Facebook account.
This is why it’s a good idea to look at fraud protection services that can alert you if ever your personal information is used somewhere, such as registering accounts on websites, or applying for credit loans in your name.
The key here is to always be wary of what personal information you share online, and while that sounds obvious, we often don’t think twice about revealing personal details about ourselves in the modern digital age.
Email Phishing Scams
In the early days, email phishing attacks were simple and easy to spot. An email was sent to a victim with a link and a subject line containing information that made the email look like it was from a reputable source, such as a bank or a legitimate web-based e-commerce site.
For example, if a message included, “This is an urgent message from the IRS” the recipient would click on the link to see the message. The email would then take the victim to a fraudulent web page where they would be asked to enter their banking information.
But phishing emails have grown more sophisticated over time, with attackers incorporating fake video links and other items into the content of the email, making it hard for victims to tell the difference between real and fake messages. The coronavirus pandemic also saw a surge of online phishing scams, as people waited for relief payments from their governments.
The best defense is to be skeptical of emails that ask you to click on a link and enter personal information. Rather than clicking on any link contained in an email, the best course of action is to go to the official site of the business or organization from which the email is claiming to be sent. And if you receive a message that doesn’t look right, you can always forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While trojan viruses have been around for several decades, such as the infamous I Love You email virus in 2000, ransomware attacks are relatively new to the world of digital crimes. Viruses in the past usually simply messed with your computer, displaying nasty messages that would send you to a web page for some kind of download. This would include adware, which is malware that displays unwanted advertisements on your computer.
But ransomware is a whole different beast. What ransomware typically does is hijack your computer and lock it down. You may not even be able to boot your computer to the operating system, instead being displayed a ransom message asking for cryptocurrency payment for a key to unlock your device.
Companies are targeted the most by ransomware, as usually they don’t think twice about paying the ransom – but it’s not unheard of for individuals to be targeted by ransomware as well.
Protecting yourself against ransomware requires you to have a strong anti-virus software that can encrypt your files and operating system, preventing the ransomware from taking over your computer. Having frequent backups of your data stored on an external device is also wise, in case your device is infected and not able to be operated normally.
While cybercriminals have evolved their techniques over the years, so have cybersecurity professionals. It’s a constant battle between good and evil, but vigilance and the right techniques can protect you.