How to spot common scams: Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Updated March 22, 2024  |   Published September 30, 2022

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and there’s no better time than now to brush up on your knowledge of scams and cybercrimes. Scams are, unfortunately, everywhere. People are spending more and more time online, which can make them more susceptible to cyberattacks. According to Microsoft Security Intelligence, 1 in 3 homes with computers are infected with malicious software.

How does this happen? Cybercriminals have been working for years to perfect scams that trick the unsuspecting consumer into clicking on malicious links. Once these links are clicked, their computers. and all the information saved within, are accessible to the criminal. This leaves people vulnerable to theft of personal information, theft of identities, and theft of money. Let’s take a look at some of the most common scams happening today.


Most Common Scams


1. Imposter Scam

The Federal Trade Commission reports that 1 in 5 people have suffered financial loss due to the imposter scam, making it the number one cybercrime in the country and first on this list. Cybercriminals use this scam to prey on kind-hearted people who only want to help.

Scammers begin by sending you an email that appears to be from someone you know like a boss, family member, or government official. The email will say that they are in some type of bind, and need you to help by wiring money. Be wary when seeing something like that. Ask yourself if it’s normal for this person to be emailing with such a request. If you know the person who the imposter claims to be, your first instinct should be to contact them through a separate channel. Like a email address or phone number that you know is theirs. Ask if they actually sent you this email. More often than not, your grandson will not be trapped in Nigeria and need you to wire him the funds to get home.


2. Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks are emails that trick you into clicking links that will infect your computer with viruses and malware. Or they take you to a page where you believe it’s safe to give out sensitive account information. The cybercriminals that send these will often attack businesses with the intent of stealing mass amounts of customer information from their systems. However, they still attack individual people, and scammers have gotten really good at making their emails look legitimate. A common example is scammers posing as the online shopping giant, Amazon.

These criminals know that each month more than 197 million people around the world get on their devices and visit, so there’s a decent chance that the person they’re targeting may have ordered something from Amazon in the last few days. This criminal is trying to get you to either click the tracking link or call their phony phone number and have you hand over your personal account information.

Take a closer look

If you see something like this, first ask yourself if you have placed an order on Amazon in the last few days. If you have, there are some other red flags in this email that you should look out for. Professional emails from companies like Amazon will not be riddled with typos, incomplete sentences, or improper grammar. Another red flag is the random capitalization of letters that shouldn’t be. One last thing you should do is hover over (but don’t click!) any links in the email to see if they are legitimate Amazon links. If it’s a scam, you will see a completely unrelated link. Know how to spot these red flags so you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of phishing attacks.


3. Tech Support Scams

Tech support scammers use scare tactics to get the unsuspecting user to help them hack into their own computers. Using emails or internet pop-ups, they will scare you into clicking a malicious link or have you call a phone number for “tech support.” The type of malware you would end up with from clicking these links is fittingly called scareware. If you call the phone number listed, the scammer will impersonate someone from an antivirus company’s IT department in order to gain your trust. You then give them all the information they need to hack in and steal your computer or banking information.

If you see something like this while browsing the internet, do not click “Remove viruses now,”  “Scan for viruses,” or any variation of that phrase, unless you are sure it is coming from an antivirus software that you installed yourself. Although, you need to be wary of that as well, as cybercriminals can make these look like they came from Norton or McAfee, the two most used antivirus softwares.


4. “You’ve Won” Scams

These scams are one of the oldest tricks in the book. You hear the voice that says “Congratulations, you’ve won!” as a new tab pops open on your browser. The pop-up says you’ve won a prize – but you don’t remember entering a contest. Whether you’ve “won” a cruise, $100 gift card, or some other sweepstakes, if you never entered your name into a contest that’s a definite red flag. Things that seem too good to be true are often just that. The free cruise you won will turn out to have a catch when the scammer tells you there is a fee, taxes, or customs duty that needs to be paid. Now you’re being asked to wire money or give out your credit card number. Don’t do it.


5. Healthcare Scams

These types of scams will promise to help you save on health insurance. The savings can only be obtained however, by providing your Medicare or health insurance information, including social security numbers or financial information. Whenever you see something that seems too good to be true, as we saw with the “you’ve won” scams, you’ll want to question that. Withhold giving out any of your information until you can confirm the source it’s coming from is legitimate. Having your social security number stolen can lead to a criminal taking out loans in your name, spending money that you don’t have, and tanking your credit score. They could also use it to get passports, file legal documents, apply for jobs, steal your social security benefits, and more. You do not want to deal with the headache that comes with sorting out a stolen identity.


The bottom line

Becoming a victim of a cyberattack is an unpleasant and extremely distressing experience to deal with. Norton Cybersecurity has reported that on average, worldwide consumers have lost $358 and 21+ hours per year dealing with the effects of online crime. Save yourself the trouble by becoming educated on the most common cyber-scams so you can spot them. Keep your personal and financial information to yourself.

For added protection, take advantage of Webster First’s debit card security programs. All card holders are automatically enrolled in complimentary fraud monitoring through our Card Alert Notification Program. If we detect a purchase outside your normal purchasing pattern, you’ll receive a text message asking you to confirm the transaction. If a scammer was to get ahold of your card number and start using it, you would know immediately.

Additionally, our debit cards are backed by Mastercard®, which means you have Zero Liability† on purchases made in store, over the phone, online, via a mobile device, and ATM transactions. For added protection, you can also enroll in Mastercard’s ID Theft Protection™ program at no additional charge. These valuable resources can help you stop a scam transaction before it’s too late.