Last week, something unusual happened at The CTRL Lab: we noticed a charge to our company card for Facebook advertising. Not that unusual for a company that provides marketing services to pay for Facebook advertising, right? Except for one thing: we haven’t been running any Facebook ads.
If we weren’t being diligent about watching things, this could have easily gone unnoticed.
Fortunately, we caught it relatively quickly and were able to get the charges reversed – but the instance got us looking more and more into this phenomenon, and what we found was unsettling. It turns out that internet scams are actually on the rise – in 2019, the total losses from cybersecurity scams worldwide reached over $57 million – and scams are getting more and more complex.
The internet is a wonderful, vast place: you can shop, catch up with friends, educate yourself, and so much more. But, lurking in the shadows of seemingly every platform are scammers looking to steal your data.
These scammers are looking to steal more just your bank account information or social insurance number. All of your personal data is valuable to them, including phone numbers, email addresses, date of birth, home address, drivers license numbers, and even photos of you.
The scams we often see can be quite complex – scammers know how to play into human psychology and naivete to make the scams feel like the correct answer (or to simply have them go unnoticed!). It is wise to be on the lookout, even if you don’t think you would fall for a scam.
What To Watch For
There are more than 20 types of online scams that are currently well-known, and absolutely anyone with information is a potential target. Here are some things to watch out for in your day-to-day.
- If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is – contact the supposed sender another way (such as calling them) to ensure the validity of it.
- Double-check the sender email address before clicking on any link in any email – don’t make assumptions just by the name of the sender, but analyze the name of the email address critically.
- Be wary of login prompts to accounts you are already logged into (GMail is a very common one where this is seen!)
- If you receive an email asking for money for a friend’s debt to be paid, or you are contacted to claim your “prize”, you are being scammed.
- If you are in the process of selling something and the buyer offers you extra money to pay the shipper or some other part of the buying process, politely decline.
- If you are contacted by a phone call by Microsoft or another IT company, big or small, claiming they have detected an error and need to have access to your computer remotely to fix it – hang up the phone.
How to Protect Yourself
For starters, avoid having your browser remember your passwords and use different passwords for every account. When creating your account passwords, you should follow and apply a proper password protocol. Having a strong password will make it more difficult for any cyber threat to guess your codes.
Your password should have at least 8 characters, combine lower and upper case characters, have a numerical character and a special character as well. It is also recommended to use a sentence or phrase, rather than a singular word.
Plus, once you have chosen a password, follow these tips:
- Never share your passwords
- Change the password immediately if the system suspects the account has been compromised
- Do not store your passwords in an insecure way, such as through your browser
- Avoid reusing passwords
- Verify your user identity before resetting a password
- Use two-step verification whenever possible
The convenience of having your passwords and credit card information stored right in your browser is tempting – but it is easy pickings for a scammer once they gain access to your machine. It is not worth the headache of getting scammed just to save a couple of minutes when you wish to purchase something.
When it comes to your safety online, keep an eye out always for potential scams. The internet is a wonderful place, but the reality is that there are scammers absolutely everywhere looking for easy earnings.