According to the FBI’s Internet Crimes Report, US consumers lost nearly $5 billion to the Internet scammer with over 1.5 million people affected in 5 years.
Before the crime occurred, many thought — what are the chances? It will never happen to me. But with internet scams this common, your chances are much greater than you think.
Let’s explore how to beat scammers at their own game by getting informed and taking measures to prevent cybercrime.
1) Realize How the Scammer Operates
Scammers are skilled at connecting with people when their guards are down.
You might meet them on a website you trust. They may say all the right things to show that they understand your business or personal challenges.
They’ve got the solution.
When someone commits a crime in the “real world” how often do you hear people say things like:
- We never suspected her
- He’s such a nice boy
- But she’s committed her life to working with children
It’s because people who commit crimes for a living hone their skills and they know how to cover their tracks. They place themselves where you’d least expect them.
What they do is well thought out, researched and scripted. This can make it seem like a losing proposition for you. But there are ways not get pulled in.
2) Manage Your Empathy
Being an empathic person is not a character flaw. It means you have high emotional intelligence. But cybercriminals count on the good nature of their victims.
They target people who seem very kind and compassionate. That’s because they know that it will be difficult for someone with this empathy to:
- Say “no”
- Cut off the conversation
- Hurt someone’s feelings
Living in fear and not caring isn’t the answer. But keep your radar up.
If someone starts telling you sob stories or subtly trying to make you feel bad or convince you to do something, they may be a scammer.
3) Get Informed about Phishing
You get an email from Paypal or your bank. They tell you that they think your account’s been hacked. They need you to log in and verify it’s you.
Or you get an email from your web host. They have a new offer for you that they want you to check out.
The email looks very formal — exactly like an email from the company.
Do you click that link to sign in? Don’t do it.
The message may be slightly different. But their goals are the same. They’re trying to get your username and password so they can gain access to your account.
When you click the link, you’ll go to a site that looks just like the website you know.
These are hard to detect. They could actually be real emails from a company you trust.
Your best thing you can do is go to the website through your browser — not the link. Check it out to see if there was any truth to the email.
4) Resist the Irresistible
You receive an email a guy named Steve. The subject reads something like:
I forgot to send you this file OR
I really liked the site. You should check it out
The name sounds familiar. Maybe it’s someone you forgot about meeting on social or through work.
The email sounds very personable. This person seems to know you and they share just a little about how great this attachment is.
You’re really curious now. But don’t click.
These are tell-tale signs of a scammer. Clicking on the link could give the scammer access to your passwords, your website, personal information, and computer.
It could also be ransomware, which we’ll talk about next.
They’re counting on making that file irresistible to click. But they’re not using hard sales tactics. Instead, they act like your best friend.
5) Learn About Ransomware
You’re browsing along. You click a link. And suddenly your screen freezes. You can’t do anything. Shutting down doesn’t work.
You get a message to send them $300 to unlock your computer. If you don’t, they assure you, you’ll lose everything on your device.
We store our entire lives on our devices; this can be devastating.
Here’s what to do to protect yourself
- Back your computer up on a separate secure drive
- Keep your virus protector up to date
- Don’t click on questionable links
- Don’t pay the money. Help stop making this profitable for scammers
6) Update Your Passwords Now
If you don’t create strong passwords or use password best practices, you’re not alone. This makes you a target.
If you’ve been using weak passwords, update them today.
Here’s how to create a super strong password you can actually remember.
- Think of an 8-12 word phrase from a movie you know by heart
- Pull up a notepad on your device
- Jot down the first letter of each word in the phrase
- Change out any letters that look like numbers for numbers (e.g. 5 for S)
- Change out at least 1 letter that looks like a symbol (e.g # for H)
- Capitalize 1 letter in the middle that has emphasis
- Memorize it while saying the phrase in your head
- Trash the note you created
Create a password for high-security sites like banking and retirement. Use a different phrase to create another high-security for social accounts. Never use the same high-security PW on low-security sites.
For best results, have a different password for every high-security site.
7) Buy Sister Domain Names
If you have a website for your .edu site or .org site, it’s a good idea to also buy the .com version to prevent someone from funneling traffic away from your site.
DMV.com and DMV.org, for example, are not associated with the government agency DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). But they benefit from traffic when people are looking for the “real” DMV. And if they wanted to, they could use this to scam people.
If you have a brand to protect, then buying sister domains is a smart idea.
Services like Revision Legal specialize in helping businesses reclaim their names.
The Scammer Doesn’t Have to Make the Internet a Scary Place
When you understand what to look for and take measures, you can prevent cybercrime. Manage your empathy. Learn about Phishing. Don’t click suspicious links. Update your passwords.
To learn more about staying safe online, follow our blog today!