CyberSecurity Source | Spring 2023Cyber Security
Your exclusive access to cyber security news, tips and resources.
As technology continues to improve so do criminals’ tactics to scam people out of their hard-earned money. With some help from the AARP, we’ve detailed five emerging scams to be aware of. Let’s discuss what they are, how they work, and how to avoid falling victim to them:
- How it works: A scammer acts as an online love interest. Once trust is established, the fraudster presses the victim to purchase and send cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin or Ethereum) for any variety of reasons, such as the scammer needs a deposit to book an airline ticket for the victim to come “visit” – the ticket is never purchased, and the scammer is long gone.
- How to avoid: If it seems “too good to be true” it probably is, and never send money to somebody you’ve never met. Remember to scrutinize any investment opportunity, and always double check with your financial advisor.
Payday Loan Scam
- How it works: The criminal offers a fake payday loan to an individual in need; but, to get the “loan,” they must prepay an account creation fee. Once the “fee” is paid the individual will never get their “loan” and the thieves have already moved on to another target.
- How to avoid: Remember that if you didn’t reach out for a service, and somebody is reaching out to you first, it is more than likely a scam.
One-Time Password Scam
- How it works: Scammers utilize bots, or automated programs, to deceive people into sharing the two-factor authentication codes sent to them via text or email from financial institutions. The bot will make a robocall or send a text that appears to come from a bank, asking you to authorize a charge, then it asks you to enter the authentication code you’ve just been sent if the transaction isn’t yours. It’s actually the bot that’s trying to log into your bank account, and it wants the code that the bank sent to you as a precaution, so it can get in.
- How to avoid: Never share authentication codes, or provide other information, in response to an unsolicited phone call or text. Remember, your financial institution will never ask you to share authentication codes.
Student Loan Forgiveness Scam
- How it works: As the plan to forgive student loans faces an uncertain future in the courts, scammers are trying to take advantage of people who may not have heard it’s on hold. They’ve built fake application sites aimed at stealing applicants’ Social Security numbers and bank information, and sometimes they contact targets by phone, pressuring them into applying and charging a fee for their help.
- How to avoid: Go to the Department of Education’s website to keep track of the proposed forgiveness program’s status.
Check Washing Scam
- How it works: Criminals steal checks from mailboxes and wash them in chemicals to erase the original name and dollar amount, leaving a blank space they can fill in. This simple scam can change a $15 check to one for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
- How to avoid: The U.S. Postal Service recommends depositing mail in public collection boxes before the last pickup of the day, so the check doesn’t sit longer than needed. At home, don’t leave mail in your mailbox overnight and have your mail held by the post office (or picked up by a friend or neighbor) if you’re going to be away.
While criminals impersonating government officials is certainly nothing new, scammers continue to find new ways to exploit unsuspecting victims. Because scams of this nature are built on the trust an individual has in federal agencies, here are some reminders of what our government does and does not do:
- The federal government will not call you out of the blue and ask for personal information. Remember: these agencies already have details like your Medicare and Social Security numbers.
- Any important correspondence from the federal government typically comes from the U.S. Postal Service.
- No government agency will begin a serious conversation with you through text, email, or social media.
- The government won’t reach out to offer you a federal grant. Grants require an application and are distributed for specific purposes.
- No government agency will ask you for an upfront payment before they disperse a benefit, grant, or refund.
- The government won’t suspend benefits from Social Security or Medicare because someone else misused your information.
- Federal law enforcement agencies will never press you to reveal personal information like a bank account number.
- Government agencies don’t take payments in the form of prepaid gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency.
As we continue to become more reliant on technology, it’s crucial to protect yourself online. Cybercriminals continue to find new ways to exploit individuals and steal sensitive information; however, there are easy ways to stay safe online:
- Use two-factor authentication, or 2FA, whenever possible. This method provides an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of authentication, such as a short code sent to your phone, in addition to an account password. Using this method makes it more difficult for hackers to access your accounts even if they have stolen your password.
- Keep the software on your phone, computer or tablet up to date. Installing the latest security patches and updates helps protect you from vulnerabilities scammers are exploiting.
- Be careful what information you share on public Wi-Fi networks. These networks, like the ones you find in coffee shops and airports, are often unsecured and can be hijacked by hackers. Avoid accessing sensitive information or logging into important accounts, like your bank, when connected to a public Wi-Fi network.
- Limit the amount of personal information your share on social media and review your privacy settings to make sure only trusted individuals can access your information.