Online scams have become increasingly prevalent, posing threats to both small businesses and individual users. These scams can take various forms, from phishing emails to fake websites and deceptive social engineering tactics. It’s crucial for everyone to be vigilant and informed about the common signs of online scams and how to protect themselves.
The FTC claims that the amount of money stolen in scams sums up to $88 billion in 2022!
In this post, we’ll educate you on recognizing and avoiding various online scams to safeguard your online presence and finances.
Common Types of Online Scams
- Phishing Scams:
Phishing scams involve fraudulent attempts to obtain sensitive information, such as login credentials, credit card details, or personal data, by posing as a trustworthy entity. These scams often arrive via email, SMS, or social media messages. According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), there were approximately 245,771 unique phishing attacks reported in the first half of 2021. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that consumers lost over $150 million to phishing scams in 2023
- Fake Websites and Online Shopping Scams:
Scammers create fake websites that mimic legitimate online stores to trick users into making purchases. They may offer products at unrealistically low prices or sell counterfeit goods. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker reported receiving 23,963 scam reports related to online shopping in 2020. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported $338 million in losses related to online shopping scams in 2020. Reference: BBB Scam Tracker, IC3 2020 Internet Crime Report
- Tech Support Scams:
Tech support scams involve impostors pretending to be from reputable tech companies or antivirus providers. They claim that your device is infected with malware and offer to help, often for a fee, while actually installing malicious software. The FTC reported receiving over 150,000 tech support scam reports in 2020. The median reported loss for victims of tech support scams in 2020 was $305
- Investment and Financial Scams:
Fraudulent investment schemes promise high returns with little risk. These scams target individuals and businesses, enticing them to invest in fake opportunities or cryptocurrency schemes. The FBI’s IC3 reported $336 million in losses related to investment scams in 2020. The median reported loss for victims of investment fraud was $9,000 in 2020.
- Romance Scams
Romance scams typically involve perpetrators who create fake online personas to establish emotional connections with victims. They often lead victims to believe they are in a genuine romantic relationship, only to exploit their trust and request money for various fabricated reasons.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) reported 1,073 victims of romance scams in Canada in 2020. Victims of romance scams in Canada reported total losses of over $18.5 million in 2020. The CAFC noted that romance scams were among the top-reported scams in Canada over the year. Learn how to protect yourself from romance scams here.
- Lottery and Prize Scams:
Scammers inform victims that they have won a lottery, sweepstakes, or prize, but to claim it, they need to provide personal information or pay upfront fees.
How to Identify and Avoid Online Scams
- Be Skeptical of Unsolicited Communications:
- Exercise caution when receiving unsolicited emails, messages, or calls, especially if they request personal or financial information. Verify the sender’s legitimacy before taking any action.
- Check Website URLs:
- Before making online purchases, ensure that the website’s URL begins with “https://” and has a padlock symbol in the address bar. Be wary of misspelled domain names or unusual web addresses.
- Verify the Source:
- When in doubt, contact the supposed sender directly using official contact information, not the contact details provided in the suspicious communication.
- Ignore Pressure Tactics:
- Scammers often create a sense of urgency, pressuring victims to act quickly. Take your time to verify the legitimacy of the request or offer.
- Educate Yourself and Your Team:
- If you run a small business, provide cybersecurity training to your employees. Teach them how to recognize and report online scams to protect your company’s sensitive information.
- Keep Software and Antivirus Programs Updated:
- Trust Your Instincts:
- If something seems too good to be true or feels suspicious, trust your instincts. It’s better to be cautious than fall victim to a scam.
By staying informed and vigilant, both small businesses and individuals can significantly reduce their risk of falling victim to online scams. Remember that scammers continually adapt their tactics, so staying up-to-date on the latest scams is essential to protecting yourself and your business online.
Aid IT, with its wealth of experience and expertise in the field of cybersecurity, is committed to helping individuals and small businesses defend themselves against online scams and threats. In addition to providing valuable insights through our blog posts, we offer specialized cybersecurity awareness training designed to equip both small businesses and individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate the digital landscape securely.