Recognizing and Responding to Cyber Fraud
In today’s interconnected world, cyber fraud has become a pervasive threat that can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time. Tactics employed by cybercriminals continue to evolve, making it essential for individuals to stay informed about tactics used by scammers. We have written on this topic numerous times before, but the sophistication of scammers continues to evolve with new forms of scams occurring frequently making this content worthy of repeating for your financial and overall well-being.
Cybercriminals are using psychological manipulation in social engineering attacks to deceive individuals or employees of organizations into divulging confidential information or providing access to systems. These attacks can take the form of impersonation, pretexting, or baiting. Be cautious when sharing sensitive information and verify the identity of the person or organization requesting it. If it feels wrong to you, it probably is…trust your instinct and err on the side of caution if a request for information is coming from an unknown, unconfirmed source.
I personally know a non-client I’ll refer to as Tom, who recently was the victim of a very sophisticated social engineering scam that involved the scammer posing as an agent from Tom’s bank who texted Tom that the “bank” was detecting suspicious activity on his account and the bank needed Tom to respond to the text right away.
This started a chain of events that ultimately cost Tom financially and emotionally. Once Tom responded to the text message, the scammer posing as the bank, called Tom to “further access the threat.” From there he was somehow able to hack into Tom’s cellphone and was able to see every action Tom made, including when he logged on to his actual bank account while the scammer was still on the phone with him. Tom actually witnessed a small, test withdrawal occur from his account while he was on the phone with the scammer. This was the first indication to Tom that something was seriously wrong with the call and he abruptly ended it. Within minutes he called his bank to report the suspicious activity only to learn that his account had been cleared of over $30,000. To-date, Tom has been unable to recover any of his stolen money. When Tom shared this story with me, I could hardly believe the sophistication and complexity of this scam. While Tom admits he made mistakes in responding instructions the scammer gave him, he also indicated that he did not become suspicious until it was too late because the scammer was so convincing. Tom had to assume that all of his information has been compromised and has since changed his cell phone number and every password, deleted some programs, set up dual authentication on applications, established credit monitoring and taken numerous other steps in attempt to restore his online presence and security.
Another scam that is increasingly prevalent is online shopping scams. Cybercriminals set up fake websites or auction listings to lure unsuspecting shoppers into making purchases for goods that don’t exist, are counterfeit, or are of far lower quality than what is advertised. I have to admit, that even I have fallen for on-line shopping scams, thinking I was getting a one-time great deal on a product, only to later find out it was a scam. Be cautious when making online purchases, stick to well-known retailers, and read reviews before buying from new or unfamiliar sources. It’s important to note that the sites set up by these scammers are very convincing and often use actual logos from well-known brands and are loaded with fake testimonials or reviews. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is!
In tech support scams, fraudsters impersonate reputable companies’ support staff, claiming that your computer is infected with malware or experiencing technical issues. They then charge you for unnecessary services or gain remote access to your system to steal sensitive information. Always verify the legitimacy of a support call or message by independently contacting the company using their official contact information, not the information included in an email or text message.
Unfortunately, there are many other types of cyber fraud tactics and scams that exist. We suggest consumers stay informed about the various types of scams being used. Knowledge can be your most potent weapon against cybercriminals.
What to Do When Suspicious Activity is Detected
If you suspect that you’ve encountered suspicious activity or fallen victim to cyber fraud, here are some steps to take:
- Disconnect and Secure Your Accounts: If you suspect your accounts have been compromised, change your passwords immediately. Log out of all accounts and run a security scan on your devices to ensure they are free from malware.
- Report the Incident: Inform the relevant authorities, such as your bank, credit card company, or local law enforcement, about the cyber fraud incident. They can help you take the necessary steps to mitigate any potential damage. A useful resource is https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/
- Keep Records: Document all correspondence related to the incident, including emails, phone calls, and any evidence you may have. This will be valuable when reporting the issue to the authorities.
- Credit Monitoring: If you believe your personal information has been compromised, consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service to watch for any unauthorized activity.
- Learn from the Experience: Use the incident as a learning opportunity to enhance your cybersecurity knowledge and protect yourself from future attacks. Educate yourself about common cyber fraud tactics and stay updated on the latest threats.
In conclusion, cyber fraud is a pervasive threat that can affect anyone. Understanding the common types of cyber fraud, recognizing suspicious activity, and knowing how to respond when an incident occurs is crucial for safeguarding your digital world. By staying vigilant, following best practices for online security, and promptly reporting any suspicious activity, you can protect yourself from falling victim to cyber fraud and maintain your online safety.