There will always be somebody looking to take advantage of you, there’s no getting around it. What you can do is arm yourself with the knowledge on how to spot scammers and fraudsters before they spot you. This means you’ll have to educate yourself on the different scams and how they affect you. Vigilance is key. Here are four online scams to look out for.
Has somebody from a reputable company, say a bank or an online retailer, ever sent you an email requesting that you click on a link to fill in or update personal information? The information will usually include credit card info, usernames and passwords. These are phishing emails and are fraudulent. They link to websites that will look and act like a reputable business you’ve dealt with before and are a front to collect information in order to gain access to your account to steal your money or assume your identity. Never click on those links, and never fill in your personal information. Damage a phishing scam can cause to a business is disruption of employee activities, viruses, and loss of data. Do yourself a favour and delete, delete, delete. Remember, if it’s important, you will receive a call. Trust you gut if something feels off about the email you received.
2. Fake news
A term that has reached new heights of notoriety because of US President Donald Trump, these days fake news can also be classified as a type of online scam since it can cause damage that is sometimes near impossible to undo. Fake news can be classified as incorrect information distributed with the intention to misinform and cause harm or damage in some form. The sources of the information can be very misleading, and with fake news, it is oftentimes difficult to distinguish truth from fiction. When reading articles or social media postings, consider the source and do your research before taking any kind of action as a result of what you’ve read.
3. WhatsApp scams
With the rise of WhatsApp’s popularity worldwide comes inevitably the scammers who’ve seen the opportunity to relieve you of your money and/or possessions. One such scam you might have seen the past year is a notification that WhatsApp will start charging its users in order to continue using this application. Clicking on unfamiliar links will always be a risky move since it could give scammers access to personal information. You might also receive WhatsApp messages from strangers requesting donations for medical bills, either for themselves or a child. Don’t allow these scammers to pull on your heartstrings. Check the facts and do your research. When it comes to WhatsApp scams, if any message you receive from strangers or even people you know makes you feel uncomfortable or suspicious, trust your gut and investigate.
4. The hacking of IP cameras
Hacking IP (internet protocol) cameras sounds like something you would see on an episode of CSI or Criminal Minds, but this online scam has been making the rounds again of late and you should be aware of what it is and the damage it can do. What exactly is an IP camera? Basically, it’s a system or network of digital cameras used primarily for surveillance. With this kind or camera, an internet connection is necessary. They are an excellent addition to home and business security but can also be used against you if you don’t take the necessary precautions.
We asked James from Spy Shop SA for a little more insight into the problem of IP camera hacking.
“It is quite easy to hack IP cameras. Hackers would need specific software to become an online Freddy Kruger and hack, hack, hack away. Keep in mind that your IP cameras need an internet connection, which gives you a live feed directly to your Smartphone or PC. As soon as this happens, your security system becomes vulnerable and you are at risk of being hacked.”
We also asked James what kind of damage can be done when your IP cameras have been hacked. “For starters, it’s an invasion of privacy, and your home or office will become the hackers’ Big Brother playground. Online banking info, passwords, safe combinations and various personal details can be obtained and used against you.”
How to prevent IP camera hacks:
1. Remove and rename all default passwords from all devices.
2. Change your internet/router passwords.
3. Update all security device firmware.
4. Register all your devices with the manufacturers.
Now that you are a little wiser when it comes to online scams and what to look out for, read up about internet and home security, and think twice before clicking on links you aren’t sure are safe.