Stay Vigilant of These Common Online Scams

Scammers are always on the prowl. But, armed with awareness, you can avoid becoming a victim.

Unfortunately, scammers often target individuals who are around retirement age or older. Of the almost 800,000 cybercrime complaints reported to the FBI in 2020, over 200,000 victims were over the age of 60.

Luckily, most scams include clear tells to give you some warning. With a little education and some basic awareness, you'll be able to spot them. When you’re surfing the internet, keep an eye out for these common scam techniques.

If it seems too good to be true, it is

Have you ever seen an ad congratulating you for being the 1 millionth visitor? It’s a common way to draw people into scams.

Many of these prompts will say you won something such as a tablet device, monetary prize, or something else enticing. Scammers use these fake prizes to trick you into handing over sensitive information.

Some more common scams are lucrative job offers or unbelievable investment opportunities. Usually, if these come from a stranger or unknown company, don't trust them outright. Research the source and verify its authenticity before offering up any information.

In general, the best practice is to be suspicious about any offer that seems too generous.

If you feel rushed, take a moment to review

Scammers are smart. You don't have to be gullible to be a victim, because cybercriminals know how to trick most people.

A key tool in a scammer's arsenal is instilling panic. It could be in the form of an email that looks like it's from your bank or credit card. Often, these fake emails are very convincing.  But if you take a moment to look at its content, you'll be able to spot some tell-tale signs.

The main thing to look for here is a sense of urgency. Messages might say "Act now," or "Take action." Let these phrases be warning signs to slow down and check the contents of the email.

Instead of clicking on any links or taking immediate action, take a few minutes to verify the sender's address, the URL of the link, and the information in the email. Then, contact the organization represented in the email directly using contact information you know is legitimate. It's safest to use a channel you know and trust to do this (such as by phone).

Be suspicious of people offering free help with technology

It's always nice to help others, but some online scammers use the guise of support to help themselves.

You could receive a message saying that your computer has a virus, and a person from support wants to remove it. Be very careful when you receive this offer. If they ask you to download a program, share your password, or allow access to your computer, stop and review the information.

This person could be a scammer, trying to trick you into downloading a virus to steal your data. Or they could ask you to share your sensitive information so they can access your account. And remember, legitimate tech support will not ask you to pay through untraceable formats like cryptocurrency or gift cards.

If you're worried about viruses on your computer, there are some safe ways to stay protected. First, make sure you have reputable anti-virus software on your computer. Some top choices are Malwarebytes,  Norton, McAfee, and TotalAV. These programs search for viruses, remove them, and warn you about suspicious downloads.

Another option is to visit a local computer repair shop. These technicians will be able to fix your computer and install programs to protect you.

Remember, the best way to stay safe is to continue learning and stay vigilant. See other cybersecurity tips and reminders in additional articles on our website.