Tips for Avoiding Cyber Scams

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. What can you do to avoid being a victim of cyber crime? Criminals are increasingly using the internet to target victims, either to steal their identities or scam them out of a lot of money – or both. Below are some common types of cyber fraud, and tips to avoid them. You can read more about these scams on the Colorado Attorney General’s Digital Fraud website.

  • Click bait scams. These are scams where criminals will create an intriguing post on social media with the purpose of tricking the victim into sharing personal information or even installing malware. Tip: when clicking on social media posts, if you receive a suspicious-looking popup asking you to update your video player or scan your computer for viruses, this may be a scam to install malware on your computer or device. But before you even click on the post, hover your cursor over the link to make sure it’s taking you to a safe and familiar website. Even if the post appears to be from someone you know, cyber criminals will often hack into users’ accounts – so if a link looks suspicious or unfamiliar, verify it is legitimate before clicking.
  • Internet auction and classified ad sites. These kinds of scams use legitimate websites to lure customers into false purchases or which cheat sellers out of goods without paying for them. If you’re selling items on an internet auction site, a fake “buyer” might pay for the item with phony checks or money orders. Other types of scams include fake advertisements for property rentals, where an interested renter clicks on a phony ad and is made to fill out a long “application” divulging all kinds of personal information. Also common are fake ticket scams. You send in money to buy tickets for an event, but the tickets never arrive. Tip: For sellers, don’t ship items until you make sure the payment is legitimate. For buyers, do your research on a company by checking sites such as the Better Business Bureau. Don’t give personal information such as social security numbers. And remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • “Money Flipping” Scams. These are essentially “get rich quick” schemes that advertise over the internet, promising that if you invest a small amount of money you can “flip” it into a larger amount. Tip: Always do your research on a company before sharing any personal or financial information. Your research might reveal complaints. Also, as with click bait scams, sometimes it might look like one of these money flipping deals is coming from someone you know – but it’s possible their account may have been hacked, so always verify first. And again, trust your instincts. If it’s too good to be true…
  • Negative Option Scams. These are scams that send you products you didn’t order and then bill you for them. Or, they trick you into thinking you are ordering something once, only to be added to an “automatic delivery” over and over – again, sending you the bill. “Free trials” that collect money up front can fall into this category. Tip: Once again, do your research to make sure you are doing business with a legitimate company. Also, read the fine print. If you give your credit card number to get a free trial, be certain that the company won’t automatically start billing you after the trial period is over, and be aware of their cancellation policies.
  • Tech Support Scams. These are common scams where you either get a phone call, an email, or a popup pretending to be from your company’s IT department, or from your device’s manufacturer or carrier (e.g., someone claiming to be from Microsoft calls and tells you your computer has a virus). They either trick you into revealing personal/financial information, or gain access to your computer and install their own viruses, spyware, and malware. Tip: Never give a stranger access to your computer or device. Keep your computer or device updated with the latest security software. Don’t click on any suspicious email attachments, and do not respond to suspicious emails – just delete them. And if you’re not sure, contact the company directly and ask them if a call or email you received is legitimate.

These are just a few of the many types of cyber scams. The Colorado Attorney General’s Digital Fraud webpage includes more details on these and other scams, as well as tips on internet browsing safety, online shopping, smart phone security, and how to reduce spam. You can also use this website to report fraud. If you’re a victim of identity theft, be sure to check out the AG’s Identity Theft Repair Kit and other resources on their website.