Don’t Fall For These: 12 Cyber Scams Claiming Victims in the Digital Age

In today’s world, where we do so much of our personal and financial business online, the threat of cyber scams has become very significant. Cybercriminals are constantly coming up with new ways to deceive unsuspecting people. To help you stay safe, let’s talk about 12 common online scams that have caught people off guard in the digital era and some tips on protecting yourself.

Phishing Attacks

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Phishing scams involve tricky emails, messages, or websites that look legit but aim to steal your info. Be careful with unsolicited requests for your private or financial details. For instance, during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the Federal Trade Commission announced a troubling issue. There was a scam where people were told they had won World Cup tickets in a lottery and were asked to share their personal information to claim this prize.

Identity Theft

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These crooks might steal your info to commit fraud. Stay vigilant by regularly checking your credit reports and using strong, unique passwords. During the early 2000s, David Matthew Read gained notoriety as an identity thief. He targeted wealthy individuals, using their information for financial fraud. Eventually, he was caught, charged with multiple crimes, and sentenced to prison with restitution for his victims. Today, there are millions of Davids worldwide.

Online Shopping Scams

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Dodgy online stores often offer unbelievable deals on products that don’t exist. Stick to well-known websites and double-check if the site is trustworthy. Scammers often make contact through phone calls or emails, posing as representatives of the US Postal Service or a well-known shipping company. They’ll tell you there’s a package waiting for you. They’ll ask for your personal information to confirm that the package belongs to you. However, these deceitful individuals will then use this information to fraudulently open credit accounts in your name.

Investment Frauds

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Be cautious of “get-rich-quick” schemes promising significant returns with little risk. Always do your homework before investing your money online. Recently, a man took responsibility for his actions in a Florida courtroom by admitting guilt in orchestrating a fraudulent investment scheme. This scheme, unfortunately, led to the loss of over $55 million from the pockets of more than 10,000 victims. 

Romance Scams

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Online dating can be a playground for scams. Never send money to someone you haven’t met; be cautious if things move too quickly. In 2022, as per the Federal Trade Commission’s data, nearly 70,000 Americans were entangled in online romance scams, leading to reported losses that soared past the $1.3 billion mark. It’s a disheartening reminder of the vulnerabilities many people face in the digital age when seeking love and connection online.

Tech Support Scams

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Scammers pretend to be tech support, claiming your device is infected. Legitimate tech companies won’t reach out unsolicited, so hang up or delete such messages. An individual of Indian American origin was apprehended in New Jersey, as disclosed by a US Attorney in September 2023. The charges against them relate to their involvement in a technical support scam that targeted over 7,000 victims, defrauding them of a substantial sum exceeding $13 million.

Ransomware

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Ransomware locks your computer or files until you pay a ransom. Protect yourself by regularly backing up your data and keeping your software current. In May 2017, there was a digital nightmare called WannaCry. It spread like wildfire, affecting the files of around 250,000 folks using Microsoft Windows in about 150 countries. The culprits behind this chaos were a group of hackers known as the Shadow Brokers. They used a hacking tool supposedly cooked up by the US National Security Agency, EternalBlue, to exploit a weakness in Microsoft Windows PCs. These cybercriminals locked up people’s files and demanded a ransom, typically ranging from $300 to $600, payable in Bitcoin. 

Social Media Impersonation

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Fake social media profiles, aka catfishing, are created to impersonate individuals or organizations. Verify the authenticity of profiles, and be careful with friend requests or messages from strangers. Impersonator accounts may attempt to obtain money, distribute phishing links, or advertise fraudulent giveaways and prizes.

Lottery and Prize Scams

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If you didn’t enter a contest, you haven’t won it. Refrain from falling for scams that claim you’ve won something, but ask for money upfront. You’ve probably heard of the notorious Mega Millions lottery scam. In this scheme, scammers trick people into thinking they’ve won a significant prize using the Mega Millions name and logo. They use WhatsApp to send phony Cash Gift award notifications to random phone numbers worldwide.

Job Scams

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Be wary of job offers that immediately ask for personal or financial info. Legit employers won’t require this before hiring you. The Federal Trade Commission received a significantly higher number of reports regarding job and employment agency-related scams. These reports nearly tripled, going from 7,324 cases in the third quarter of 2020 to a staggering 21,848 cases during the same period in 2021.

Charity Scams

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Scammers often take advantage of disasters, pretending to be charities seeking donations. Always verify the legitimacy of a charity before donating. In 1989, a philanthropist and entrepreneur named John Bennett, Jr. set up the Foundation for New Era Philanthropy (New Era). This organization made an audacious pledge to double the investments of nonprofit organizations. However, the harsh reality was that New Era was nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. When it all came crashing down, it left a stain as one of the most significant financial scandals ever seen within American charities. Throughout five and a half years, victims suffered the loss of a staggering $135 million. 

Crypto Scams

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Cryptocurrency is a hotbed for scams. Stick to reputable exchanges, watch out for “pump and dump” schemes, and never share your private keys. Bitconnect, a well-known crypto scam in the United States, grabbed headlines for making extravagant promises of high profits through its lending and staking programs. It enticed investors with the prospect of daily interest payments and rewards for bringing in new participants. Then came the shocking moment in January 2018 when Bitconnect suddenly shut down its lending and exchange platform. This led to a devastating collapse in BCC’s value, leaving investors with massive losses as their investments turned practically worthless. 

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