The Internet is an amazing place, a vast space full of information, ideas, and opportunities for growth.
While this is undoubtedly true, it’s also filled with a lot of noise and deception. There are countless scammers, spammers, and hackers who want to take advantage of others’ lack of knowledge, technology, or both.
Keeping your personal information and that of your companies protected is crucial to staying in control of your online presence and ensuring you’re not cheated out of money or duped into sharing personal details or financial information. It also means regularly checking the authenticity of emails, websites, and social media accounts.
Here are some of the most common scams and how to avoid falling victim to them.
The ‘Fake’ Charity Scam
One of the most popular scams involves claiming to be a charity and asking for donations. The scammers will usually tell you that their charity is unable to receive funds until it has registered with the government, had a logo designed, or set up an account with a PayPal or GoFundMe.com.
Don’t fall for this scam. If you want to support a charity or become a ‘charity donor’, do it directly through a reputable organization that is committed to good governance.
The ‘Free’ Download Scam
This scam comes in various forms, but all they want is for you to click on a link, open an attachment, or visit a malicious website. The malware (malicious software) they’ve hidden on these sites will then offer to install various ‘free’ programs on your device which will give the scammers access to your computers. Keep your device’s firmware up to date and make sure you’re not clicking on unknown links or downloading software from unknown sources.
The Phishing Scam
This scam tries to trick you into giving your personal information or financial details through an email, text message, or social media account. The scammers will send you a link or an attachment via email, social media, or text message inviting you to enter your personal or financial details to ‘prove’ you’re a real person. Be careful not to enter your details on a website that looks suspicious, or opens an email attachment from an unknown source.
The Nigerian Prince/Millionaire Scam
This is one of the most common and successful scams. It’s perpetrated by people claiming to be famous or wealthy princes or princesses from Nigeria who need your help to settle a sizeable bank debt or to fund their next business venture. They may promise you vast rewards for your help, or that you’ll be treated as a ‘special guest’ at an event tied to the rich and famous. Do not give anyone bank account information or money. Remain vigilant and do not be tempted by fake news stories, emails, or social media posts purporting to be from famous or legitimate individuals seeking financial assistance.
The Telesales Scam
This scam starts when an unsolicited phone call or text message appears to be from a reputable company seeking to provide you with a service or product. But, the call or message is actually from a scammer who wants to dupe or trick you into purchasing a useless item or service. Be careful when giving out your personal information over the phone, even if the item or service sounds legitimate. Just because a company is calling or sending text messages does not mean they are who they say they are.
The Social Engineering Scam
This scam starts when the scammer convinces you to visit a link or click on an attachment that takes you to a malicious website where they can trick or dupe you into disclosing your personal information or bank details. Once you’ve given them this information, they will use it to commit identity theft or fraud, or both. Social engineering attacks work because people are generally trusting and open on the internet. To further compound the problem, many people use the same logins and passwords for multiple accounts, making them easy pickings for scammers.
To avoid falling victim to this scam, be sure to change your passwords regularly, use a reputable and different password for each account you have, and exercise caution when browsing the internet.
The ‘Get Rich Quick’ Scheme
These scams are all the same. You’ll be asked to visit a link or click on an attachment that will take you to a malicious website. Once you’ve given them your personal information or bank details, they will attempt to sell you a bogus business opportunity or ‘get rich quick’ scheme that will supposedly make you a wealthy person overnight. Stay away from these types of websites as they’re usually designed to trick you into thinking that you’ve won some sort of prize, or that you’ll get rich easily.
Protect Your Wireless Network
Hackers and spies will often try to penetrate your wireless network to access your devices or data. They may use various methods to do this from brute force attacks using readily available tools to more sophisticated attacks using quantum computers or other advanced hardware and software. To protect your network from such attacks, you can use a range of techniques from encryption to MAC filtering to ensure that only those approved to access your network can.
Be Careful When Using Free Wi-Fi
Scammers will often use free Wi-Fi hotspots to commit fraud or hijack your account. To avoid falling victim to a Wi-Fi scam, be sure to use a VPN, which I’ve recommended in this guide, to encrypt your data while you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi hotspot. When you’re using a secured connection to access a Wi-Fi hotspot, your personal information, such as credit card details and login credentials, will be protected from cybercriminals. If you’re still wary of using free Wi-Fi, then consider paying for a connection instead.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, is a security technique that requires you to enter a secondary code, often a six- or seven-digit number, along with your username and password to logon to a website or online service. This prevents hackers or unauthorized parties from gaining access to your account if your login details are stolen. Certain websites and online services have implemented 2FA, and it’s usually a safe bet to assume that any large or reputable company has done so as well.
To use 2FA effectively, be sure to enter a different six- or seven-digit code at each site you visit. This way, even if someone hacks one site and logs on to your account, they won’t have access to any other accounts you might have. It is also crucial that you do not write down or store these six- or seven-digit codes anywhere near your actual login details. Doing so leaves you at risk of having your login details stolen. Finally, make sure you update your 2FA settings and change your codes regularly.
Use Better Choices For Your Browser
The most basic rule of cyber hygiene is to use a safer browser. The better your choices are, the better you’ll be able to stay protected. Ideally, you want to use a browser that is not automatically updated, has a dedicated and attentive staff, and has a minimal number of trackers, adverts, and other irritating elements. Brave, Firefox, and Chrome are all excellent browsers that you can use to surf the web safely.
Be Careful With Emails
Emails are a double-edged sword when it comes to web security. On the one hand, they can be used to send and receive critical notifications regarding your finances, privacy, or safety. On the other hand, they can be used to send malicious links and attachments that will infect your devices or expose you to identity theft or fraud. To keep your personal data safe, be sure to only visit websites and email accounts you know and trust.
Use A VPN To Secure Your Online Presence
A VPN protects you from cyber attacks while you’re online by encrypting all your data, ensuring that only you and the person you’re communicating with can read your messages. In other words, a VPN keeps your data private and secure. When you connect to a VPN, your computer will act as though it’s directly connected to the internet, but instead, it will be connecting to a secure server somewhere in the world.
VPNs can be used to hide your IP address, the address of your device (including your computer, tablet, and smartphone), as well as your location. As a result, it becomes virtually impossible for others to discover your identity or location when you’re connected to a VPN.