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Think you’re safe? The top 10 computer scams

As much as everyone likes to think they’re safe when browsing online, the reality is that every account or profile is a target and just a small lapse in online security or an error of judgment can cause an account to be compromised. Hackers always like to stay ahead of the game.

Cybersecurity professionals like to say, “think like a hacker to catch a hacker”. So, this post will equip you with the knowledge you need to prevent falling prey to the online bad guys.

Read on for the ten common scams to look out for, and the five (free) things you should do to stay safe from scams.

1. Phishing scams

Phishing scams are one of the most common attacks. This scam involves a malicious player sending the victim a fake email which appears to be from a trusted source such as a bank, to lure them into supplying sensitive information like logins. Emails look legitimate and usually come from an email address with a domain similar to the trusted source. 

In phishing emails, attackers use very persuasive techniques to get you to click and enter or share your personal information. Clicking links in malicious emails will often direct you to a cloned webpage of the real one, and entering your details there, to login, for example, is merely giving the attacker your data. 

Watch out for emails that are not addressed to you by name, including grammatical errors, include links to websites that don’t include ‘https’ (you can often see what a link is without clicking on it just by hovering your mouse over it), or that just don’t look right. Remember that banks and trusted organizations will never email you asking for your login details and that you do not need to log in to any site via an email. If you’re ever unsure of an email, do not action it. Log in and check what you need to, outside the email, via the organization’s website.

2. The Nigerian scam

The Nigerian scam, which is also known as ‘419’ fraud involves, cybercriminals contacting the target via email, social networks and so on, and generally asks the target to transfer some money in order to take part in an ‘opportunity’ to share in a percentage of a much larger sum of money that the author is trying to transfer illegally out of Nigeria.

Beware of contact from any strangers on the internet or a deal that is too good to be true; do not respond to these messages and if possible, block these strangers from contacting you. Cybercriminals can be very persuasive, and victims of Nigerian scams can end up giving them money until they’re left with nothing.

3. Greetings card scams

In this scam, attackers take advantage of festivals and holidays by sending a greeting card to your email that appears to be from someone you know, via a legitimate site. If you click on this email, you will automatically download and install malware on your computer. This can come in the form of adware that displays annoying banners and ads whenever you use your PC or may give the hackers unlimited access to your computer, to view your keystrokes and steal your personal information such as passwords and bank account details.

Do not open emails or attachments from any site that you don’t recognize, or that claim to be from a sender that seems unlikely to send you a greetings card.

4. Credit card scams

In a typical credit card or bank loan scam, targets will be told about a secret offer, where, by paying some mandatory fees upfront, you can access a huge pre-approved loan. The reality is, no bank will lend without first understanding your financial situation. Ignore these kinds of offers.

5. Lottery scams

These scams, which are similar to the above credit card or bank loan scams, involve cybercriminals telling targets they have won a lottery, but need to pay some money in order to claim their prize.

This style of ‘lottery’, where people pay to enter after they have won, is not a legitimate lottery. You would never be asked by a legitimate company to pay a handling fee or any sort of charge for your winnings to be released. 

6. Antivirus scams

In this scam, targets are displayed a notification which says that viruses have infected their computer and should click to download a certain antivirus to fix them. Ironically, by clicking on this notification, their system would be infected with a real virus or malware.

You should always ignore these messages and ensure that your computer is always protected by a good antivirus such as Avast Free Antivirus. Do not wait to download antivirus; your PC needs to be protected from the moment you start using it.

7. Hitman scams

In hitman scams, the cyber attacker will message the victim with threats to extort money. Threats can be to the victim directly, or to kidnap a family member unless a ransom is paid within a certain timeframe. To appear convincing, the message will likely be filled with personal details about their friends and family, which will be collected from a personal blog or social media platform. 

If you receive these kinds of messages, ignore them and report them to the police. Remember that it’s not safe to provide any sensitive or personal information on social media channels.

8. Romance scams

Social apps are part of our lives so it’s not surprising that many relationships start online. Using dating apps or social networks to look for love while we often lead busy lives, is commonplace. However, when online dating you do need to exercise some caution.

In this scam, malicious players acting as someone genuine will approach a target on dating apps, social media or email and by taking advantage of social media, can create the illusion of real life. They slowly build trust and eventually, ask for financial assistance.

Remember that you should never lend money to what is essentially, a stranger (or someone that you’ve met a handful of times. Use your gut instinct and when in doubt, block.

9. Facebook impersonation scams

The most popular social network, Facebook, has millions of active daily users and houses trillions of dollars’ worth of data from users who trust the platform and submit their information willingly. In this scam, cybercriminals will hack into Facebook accounts and impersonate him or her to trick friends and relatives into sending them money. 

On your social media platforms, remember to use a secure password that you do not share with others. Do not accept friend requests from people you don’t know, avoid connecting on public and free Wi-Fi networks, and keep your browser and apps updated.

10. ‘Get rich quick’ scams

In this scam, fraudsters convince their targets of ‘opportunities’ to make money quickly and easily. Using various job types, such as work-at-home scams, the victim is lured into giving away personal information and financial data with the promise of a well-paid job that doesn’t exist.

To avoid this scam, you need to exercise caution. Remember to question why someone would approach you to start such a well-paid and easy job, when they could do it themselves?

In summary

In your digital life, exercise caution and use the right tools. Here are the five (free) things you should do to help stay safe from scams:

  1. Use a secure browser such as CCleaner Browser, which comes packed with built-in security and privacy tools.
  2. Clean your browsing data regularly using CCleaner.
  3. Create secure passwords, use them across all your online accounts and social media platforms and do not share them.
  4. Always run a good antivirus, such as Avast Antivirus.
  5. Use common sense. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

We hope that helps! If you have any comments, please tweet us. We're @CCleaner.


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