Top 9 security scams to watch out for in 2024
As we enter the new year we are constantly bombarded with information, both legitimate and malicious. It is more important than ever to be aware of the latest security threats and scams so that we can protect ourselves and our loved ones.
As a security expert, I have seen firsthand the devastating impact that scams can have on people’s lives. I have seen people lose their hard-earned money, their personal information, and even their identities. I have seen families torn apart and businesses destroyed. That is why I am writing this blog post. I want to share with you the top 10 security scams to watch out for in 2024. I want to empower you to act and protect yourself from these threats. I believe that everyone has the right to feel safe and secure online. I hope that by reading this blog post, you will learn how to stay safe and protect yourself from the latest scams.
1. Phishing Scams
Phishing scams remain the most prevalent and widely used online scams, attempting to trick you into revealing sensitive information, such as your passwords, credit card details, or social security numbers. These frauds often take the form of emails or text messages that appear to be from legitimate sources, such as banks, government agencies, or online retailers.
To protect yourself from phishing scams, be wary of unsolicited emails or text messages that request personal information. Always verify the sender’s email address or phone number before clicking on any links or opening attachments. Additionally, never provide your personal information over the phone or email unless you initiated the contact and are certain of the recipient’s authenticity.
In 2023, a phishing scam targeting Amazon customers resulted in the theft of millions of dollars’ worth of personal information. The scam involved emails that appeared to be from Amazon, informing recipients of fraudulent charges to their accounts. Upon clicking a link in the email, victims were redirected to a fake Amazon login page, where they unwittingly entered their credentials.
This case study highlights the importance of carefully examining the sender’s information and checking for misspellings or grammatical errors in the email content. Additionally, hovering over links with your cursor can reveal the actual destination URL, allowing you to verify its legitimacy before clicking.
Remember: If you think you have been the victim of a phishing scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at IdentityTheft.gov.
2. Malware Attacks
Malware, or malicious software, is a type of software designed to harm your computer system or steal data. Malware can be installed through various means, including opening infected attachments, clicking on malicious links, or downloading pirated software.
To protect yourself from malware attacks, only download software from trusted sources and avoid clicking on suspicious links or opening unexpected attachments. Additionally, ensure your antivirus and anti-malware software are up to date and running regular scans.
In 2021, the infamous REvil ransomware attack targeted numerous companies, including JBS, the world’s largest meat processor. The attack involved infiltrating the company’s systems and encrypting its data, demanding a ransom payment of $11 million in exchange for the decryption key.
This case study emphasizes the importance of having cybersecurity measures in place, including regular backups, network segmentation, and employee education on identifying and reporting suspicious activity. Businesses should also consider implementing a zero-trust security model, which requires ongoing verification of user identity and access privileges.
3. Social Engineering Scams
Social engineering scams are a type of fraud that relies on human interaction. Scammers try to trick you into giving them personal information or money by pretending to be someone you trust, like your bank or a family member. They might create fake websites or send emails that look real, or they might call you on the phone and try to pressure you into making a quick decision.
To protect yourself from social engineering scams, be cautious about sharing personal information with strangers, especially online. Be wary of unsolicited requests for assistance or offers that seem too good to be true. Additionally, never reveal your passwords or financial information to anyone, even if they claim to be from a trusted organization.
In 2022, a social engineering scam targeting cryptocurrency investors resulted in the theft of over $500 million. The scam involved posing as cryptocurrency exchange employees and contacting investors to obtain their login credentials.
This case study highlights the importance of verifying the authenticity of individuals or organizations before providing personal information or granting access to sensitive accounts. Always double-check email addresses, phone numbers, and website URLs to ensure they match the legitimate organization’s contact information.
4. Tech Support Scams
You are sitting at your computer, minding your own business, when you receive a pop-up message warning you of a virus infection. The message prompts you to call a tech support number immediately to resolve the issue.
Concerned about your computer’s safety, you dial the number provided. A friendly-sounding voice answers, claiming to be a tech support representative. They assure you that they can fix the problem quickly and easily.
To fix the problem, the representative asks you to grant them remote access to your computer. This means they will be able to see everything on your screen and control your computer remotely.
Once you have granted them access, the representative starts running commands and installing software on your computer. You may not understand what they are doing, but you trust them because they seem to know what they are doing.
After a while, the representative declares that the virus has been removed and your computer is now safe. They ask you to restart your computer, and when you do, you notice that some of your personal files are missing. You also realize that your computer is running much slower than before.
What happened? You have fallen victim to a tech support scam. The “tech support representative” you spoke to was actually a scammer who tricked you into granting them remote access to your computer. They then used this access to install malware on your computer and steal your personal files.
These scams often target unsuspecting individuals, particularly those who may not be as tech-savvy.
The scammers may use various tactics to gain the victim’s trust, such as spoofing caller ID to make it appear as if they are calling from a legitimate company or using fear-mongering techniques to convince the victim that their computer is in imminent danger.
Common Tech Support Scam Tactics:
- Cold Calls: Scammers may make unsolicited calls to individuals, claiming to be from a well-known tech company and warning of a virus or other issue with their computer.
- Pop-up Ads: Scammers may create pop-up ads on websites that warn of potential security threats and encourage the user to call a tech support number for immediate assistance.
- Email Scams: Scammers may send emails that appear to be from a legitimate company, informing the recipient of suspicious activity on their account and urging them to contact tech support for verification.
To protect yourself from tech support scams, be wary of unsolicited calls, emails, or pop-up ads claiming to offer tech support. Never grant remote access to your computer to anyone unless you initiated the contact and are certain of the recipient’s legitimacy. If you receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from a tech support company, hang up immediately and contact the company directly using their official contact information.
In 2021, a tech support scam targeting elderly individuals resulted in the theft of millions of dollars. The scammers posed as Microsoft technicians and convinced the victims to grant them remote access to their computers, allowing them to steal financial information and install malware.
This case study highlights the importance of educating individuals, especially those who may be less familiar with technology, about the risks of tech support scams. It is crucial to emphasize that legitimate tech companies will never ask for remote access to your computer or personal information over the phone or through unsolicited emails.
Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When it comes to cybersecurity, it is always better to err on the side of caution and protect yourself from potential frauds.
5. Deepfake Scam
Imagine someone creating a fake video of your boss asking you to transfer a large sum of money. This video could be so realistic that it is hard to tell it is fake. This is what deepfakes are.
Deepfakes are fake videos or audio recordings that use artificial intelligence to make people look or sound like they are saying or doing things they never did. Cybercriminals are using deepfakes to trick people into giving them money or sensitive information.
Here are some of the ways deepfakes can be used for scams:
- Impersonating CEOs or other high-level executives: Cybercriminals can create deepfake videos or audio recordings that appear to be from a company’s CEO or another high-level executive, instructing employees to transfer funds to fraudulent accounts.
- Spreading misinformation or propaganda: Deepfakes can be used to create fake news stories or propaganda videos that can sow discord, manipulate public opinion, or damage reputations.
- Blackmailing or extorting individuals: Cybercriminals can create deepfakes that show an individual engaging in compromising or illegal activities, then threaten to release the deepfakes unless the victim pays a ransom.
Examples of Deepfake:
- Deepfake of Elon Musk: In November 2023, a deepfake of Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, was used to promote a cryptocurrency scam. The deepfake video showed Musk endorsing a fake cryptocurrency called “Elon Coin,” and it was shared widely on social media before it was taken down. The incident highlighted the potential for deepfakes to be used to manipulate markets and deceive investors.
- Deepfake of Rashmika Mandanna: In October 2023, a deepfake video of Indian actor Rashmika Mandanna went viral on social media. The video appeared to show Mandanna engaging in intimate acts, but it was later revealed to be a fake created using artificial intelligence. The incident sparked outrage and concern about the potential for deepfakes to be used to spread misinformation and harm reputations.
6. Fake charity scams
You are scrolling through social media, and you come across a heartwarming post about a child in need of medical treatment. The post includes a link to a donation page, and you are immediately moved to help. Without thinking twice, you donate a generous amount of money.
Unfortunately, the charity you donated to is a fraud. The child’s story is fabricated, and the money you donated will never reach those in need. Instead, it will line the pockets of cybercriminals who prey on people’s compassion.
Fake charity scams are a growing problem, and they can be very convincing. Scammers often use stolen images and stories to create a sense of urgency and make their appeals more believable. They may also target specific groups of people, such as the elderly or those with a history of donating to charity.
Beware of these Red Flags to protect yourself from these security scams:
- Pressure you to donate immediately: Legitimate charities understand that donating is a personal decision and will not rush you into making a commitment.
- Request unusual payment methods: Reputable charities typically accept donations through established channels such as credit cards, checks, or online payment platforms. If a charity asks for payment via wire transfers, gift cards, or cryptocurrency, proceed with caution.
- Lack transparency: Legitimate charities should readily provide clear and concise information about their mission, programs, and financial standing. If a charity’s website or communications lack this information, raise an eyebrow.
- Make unrealistic promises: Charities should focus on making a positive impact rather than promising extravagant rewards for donations. If a charity guarantees you a return on your investment or participation in a raffle, be sceptical.
Verify Before You Donate
Before opening your wallet, take the time to verify the legitimacy of a charity. Utilize reputable resources such as Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, or Give.org to research the charity’s background, financial management, and impact. Additionally, check if the charity is registered with the appropriate authorities in your country or state.
7. Fake travel scams
Cybercriminals create fake websites and social media pages that mimic those of legitimate travel agencies or accommodation providers. They may also use email marketing campaigns to spread enticing offers that are too good to be true. These scammers aim to collect your payment information, including credit card details and passport numbers, and then disappear without delivering the promised travel arrangements.
Beware of Unbelievable Deals and Lack of Transparency
Exercise caution when encountering exceptionally low prices or unrealistic vacation packages. Scammers often exploit your desire for a bargain, offering deals that far exceed the market value of the services. Additionally, be wary of websites or booking platforms that lack transparency, failing to provide clear contact information, detailed itineraries, or customer reviews.
Here are some essential steps to protect yourself:
- Verify the travel agency or accommodation provider’s legitimacy: Check with reputable resources such as the Better Business Bureau or relevant tourism boards to ensure the organization is registered and has a positive track record.
- Browse customer reviews and testimonials: Read reviews and testimonials from previous customers to gain insights into the company’s reputation and service quality.
- Avoid unusual payment methods: Stick to secure payment methods such as credit cards with fraud protection and avoid transferring funds directly to individuals or through unconventional channels.
- Book directly with reputable travel agencies or accommodation providers: When possible, book directly with established and reputable travel agencies or accommodation providers to minimize the risk of encountering scammers.
- Be aware of unsolicited emails or social media messages: Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments from unwanted emails or social media messages promising travel deals, as these may contain malware or lead to fraudulent websites.
8. Online dating scams
Cybercriminals carefully craft fake online dating profiles, often using stolen images or inventing personas that exude charm, intelligence, and shared interests. They may engage in lengthy conversations, building trust and rapport over time. Once they have established a strong emotional connection, scammers may start making requests, often disguised as expressions of love or concern.
Beware of Emotional Appeals and Financial Requests
Exercise caution when encountering individuals who make persistent emotional appeals or requests for financial assistance. Scammers may ask for money to pay for medical expenses, travel costs, or even business investments. They may also manipulate your emotions by threatening to end the relationship if you do not comply with their demands.
Here are some essential steps to protect yourself from online dating scams:
- Verify the authenticity of the profile: Conduct a reverse image search of the profile picture to check if it is stolen from another source.
- Be wary of inconsistencies and quick declarations of love: Scammers may create inconsistencies in their stories or rush into declarations of love to gain your trust quickly.
- Avoid sharing personal information or sending money: Refrain from sharing sensitive information like your address, bank details, or family information. Never send money to someone you have met online, no matter how convincing their pleas may be.
- Trust your intuition and report suspicious activity: If something feels off, listen to your instincts. Report any suspicious behaviour or profiles to the dating platform.
9. Investment Scams
Imagine you are looking for a way to make your money grow. You come across an investment opportunity that promises high returns with minimal risk. It sounds too good to be true, but you decide to take a chance.
You invest your money, and at first, it seems like you are making a great decision. The investment value keeps going up, and you are excited about the potential profits. But then, something goes wrong. The investment value starts to plummet, and you lose all your money.
This is just one example of an investment scam. Scammers are always looking for new ways to trick people into investing in fraudulent schemes. They may promise high returns, minimal risk, or even guaranteed profits.
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from investment scams:
- Do your research: Before you invest in anything, make sure you understand what you are investing in. Read the fine print and ask questions.
- Be wary of unsolicited offers: If someone calls you out of the blue or sends you an email about an investment opportunity, be careful. It could be a scam.
- Do not invest under pressure: Scammers often try to pressure people into making quick decisions. Do not let them rush you. Take your time and think carefully about any investment opportunity.
- Diversify your investments: Do not put all your eggs in one basket. Invest in a variety of different assets to reduce your risk.
- Talk to a financial advisor: If you are not sure about an investment opportunity, talk to a trusted financial advisor. They can help you make informed decisions.
As technology gets better and the internet gets bigger, so do the ways scammers try to trick us. The scams in this blog post are just a few of the many ways scammers try to get our money, personal information, and emotions.
The best way to protect yourself from scams is to be aware of the common red flags and techniques used by scammers. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be careful about any unsolicited offers or requests for personal information.
If you think you have been the victim of a fraud, report it to the appropriate authorities. You can also help others by sharing awareness-raising campaigns and supporting organizations that instruct people about cybersecurity.
Remember, the tools and knowledge to protect yourself are within your reach. By staying informed and taking proactive measures, you can protect your digital space and minimize the impact of these scams.