Our lives moved to cyberspace during the pandemic. Working remotely, shopping online, and using video calls to check in with friends and family became a part of our routines. Embracing this allowed us to remain productive and made the quarantine a lot easier. As a result, the number of hours spent online increased tremendously for most of us.
Unfortunately, the online world is not a safe space. Cybercriminals started coming up with various frauds and profited from fear and general carelessness. The pandemic prompted these fraudsters to become even more imaginative and create scams that worked among the scared and isolated public.
So, the best way to avoid getting scammed is to learn all about the potential dangers still lurking on the web today.
What Are Online Scams?
As you might have guessed, online scams during the pandemic rely on the dread of the COVID-19 virus. You have probably seen ads promoting various cures in the early days of the pandemic. These included teas, vitamin-C treatments, and many more. The authorities did debunk these so-called remedies, but many people still fell for them.
Cybercriminals became more sophisticated and decided to change the theme for their phishing attempts. There were several attempts at stealing users’ personal information through fake websites that advertised antibody tests. Then, we saw an emergence of fraudulent websites that allow you to register for a vaccine early. Cybercriminals use them to get their hands on social security numbers and credit card information.
The United States and several other countries provide financial aid to the unemployed via economic stimulus checks. Once again, cybercriminals saw this as an opportunity for a direct financial scam. You could get a confirmation email for your stimulus check that asks for your social security and financial data. But beware of calls and messages on your phone too.
How to Recognize a Scam
The easiest way to recognize a scam is to ask yourself if it is too good to be true. Cybercriminals are aware of the potential of the pandemic and widespread anxiety. So, in the early days of the lockdown, websites promising free face masks and protective gear probably flooded your inbox. Hackers then peddled remedies and sent messages about mandatory COVID-19 testing.
If you are unsure if you are dealing with a scam, pay attention to the details. While suspicious websites could look well made, grammar and spelling mistakes are common. Reputable companies do employ professional writers who are meticulous when it comes to writing. Then, take a look at the sender’s email address. The domain name should be official. Companies and businesses don’t send emails from an address that ends in @gmail.com.
How to Prevent Online Scams
You don’t need to be a tech expert to recognize online scams. There are tools like antivirus software, spam filters, and VPN online that could be of great help. But keep your eyes open while online, regardless. Here is how to prevent scams from happening to you:
Use Antivirus Software
The first thing you need to do is download one of the antivirus apps. These can protect your computer or phone and prevent malware from getting into the system. But, antivirus apps need to be up to date. Thus, when an update pops up, please don’t ignore it.
Turn On a VPN
A VPN is another must-have for scam protection. It is crucial if you often connect to public Wi-Fi. Hot spots are available everywhere, but you never know who might be on the same network. Thus, using a VPN is highly recommended. Once you launch a VPN service, your traffic will become encrypted and invisible to everyone.
Phishing attempts often happen through unsolicited emails that find their way to an inbox. The same goes for malware that could be attached to one of the messages. Therefore, it is best to use spam filters. These tools will sort out the mail you receive daily and figure out what should be in your inbox and what shouldn’t.
Ignore Suspicious Attachments
Spam filters might not be able to remove all the dangerous messages from your inbox, but this is where you come into play. Ignore emails sent to you from an unfamiliar address that contain attachments. And most importantly – don’t click on links or download the said attachments.
Double-check your social media profiles for any personal information you might have shared in the past. It includes your hometown, date of birth, schools you have attended, and so on. Hackers can use this knowledge to answer security questions and gain access to your accounts on numerous platforms.