Online Fraud: Most Common Spammer Tricks
Since the early 2000s, online fraud has been a constant problem, always ready to trap unwary users. Antivirus software can protect you from most spammer tricks, but sometimes, even the strictest email spam filters may let a potentially dangerous email slip into your inbox. However, if you know the most common spammer tricks, protecting yourself from online fraud becomes so much easier.
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Bank and Financial Phishing
Email phishing that tries to steal your credit card or bank account information remains a common online fraud. It is also one of the most dangerous, because if you fall for it, you may grant spammers access to more than your data – you may grant them access to your money.
It works like this. Spammers send you fake messages from banks, PayPal, or other payment systems that inform you of suspicious activity or a failed transaction, or that require you to confirm your identity. Spammers may gather data about you from social media and other sources before sending one of these emails, making them quite persuasive.
If you provide your credit card details or PayPal login information, they may withdraw funds from your account or use your balance to order products online and have them shipped to bogus addresses. They may also sell your information to mass spammers.
Fake notifications have always been one of spammers’ favorite strategies, and they’re everywhere today – in your email, on social media, on mobile, and even on popular e-stores. Fake notifications usually direct you to a fake login page in order to steal your credentials or require you to provide other sensitive information.
Here are some of the most common fake notifications you need to guard against:
- From Social Networks
In the last decade or so, the popularity of social media networks across devices has given rise to fake notifications targeting social media users. Often, these take the form of compelling social media messages or emails that include a phishing link that takes you to a fake login page. There, you are asked to enter your username and password. But the page has nothing to do with the actual social network it poses as – it only tries to capture your login credentials. Spammers also use social media itself to send phishing links, often using new friend requests, news about “common” friends, and other updates to get you to click on them. Be sure you know the basics about social networking safety.
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- From Email Services
Millions of people around the world use free email services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook, or AOL. While all of these have built-in spam defenses, clever spammers may still reach your inbox through notifications that supposedly come from your email provider.
These notifications warn you that your email account has been accessed by an unauthorized device, invite you to test new, limited features, or ask you to confirm your identity. They use fake login pages to steal your personal information.
From Popular Services and Websites
So many people today use Netflix and Amazon that spammers can assume random targets use these services. Using email, spammers may create a sense of urgency around a new feature or product, or else invent plausible account or payment related problems which require you to log into your account right away to address them. But the login page is fake and meant only to steal your username and password.
That’s why it’s important to look carefully at the address of the sender – spammers can never use the official Amazon or Netflix customer support addresses, so instead they try to create very similar ones that may use underscores or other symbols.
- Fake Websites
Fake websites are nearly identical copies of popular websites or fake stores and services providers. Spammers may use email, social media, or other online channels, including groups, forums, and apps to offer you a special, time-limited deal or some other perk. In return, you only have to create an account and enter your credit card data. Milder variants of his scam try only to steal your personal information for spam marketing purposes or in order to resell it to mass spammers.
- “Nigerian” Scams or Money Transfer Scams
Money transfer scams evolved from an old type of email scam involving a rich Nigerian prince promising you great riches only if you helped him transfer some money into your country by providing your bank account and other personal information, including your address and credit card details. Hence many still refer to them as “Nigerian” scams.
These scams usually strike through email and invariably involve a proposed money transfer of some kind, and a nice reward in return. They usually request your bank account information so that you can help them move the funds.
The result is that your account details become compromised and, even if they can’t actually withdraw money from your account, you become vulnerable to future attacks. That’s why it’s so important not to provide any financial or personal information, no matter how urgent the message may be.
To get what they want, spammers may try to play on your emotions. Charity frauds are common. Using emotional headlines and images, spammers request donations for a worthy cause – hunger relief, animals in danger, or even sick children.
They usually reach you through phishing links on email or social media and may create simple one-page websites to persuade you to donate. But more than stealing your money, charity frauds can steal your credit card information.
Government frauds, by contrast, use scare tactics. Using fake, official-sounding emails from the IRS, CIA, FBI, or some other government organization, these phishing emails threaten you into handing over personal information. Posing as police officers or tax collectors, they may address you personally and even mention your social security number. In truth, no government agency uses email for such a purpose.
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Fake Greeting Cards
There are spammers who would use even something as innocent as online greeting cards to get your data or install malware on your computer. Fake greeting cards from friends or relatives arrive in your inbox with a phishing link. They may offer you a preview of the card, but in order to download it, you need to enter your personal information.
A variant of this spam trick uses a malware link to take you to a web page that automatically downloads malware, infecting your computer. The best defense against this type of online fraud, as against all others, is never to click links in suspicious emails, not even if they make it into your inbox.