Avoiding Online Scams – How to Stay Safe While Browsing The Web
As a large proportion of our lives now take place in a digital world, it is imperative that users know how to keep their personal information secure. Software protecting our information continues to evolve and become more sophisticated, but cybercrime is an ever-present threat. As defences become more advanced, so too do fraudsters’ methods.
The convenience of using the Internet for a whole host of different reasons can make it easy to forget that there are cybercriminals out there who will prey on the vulnerable. It is crucial that users know how to recognise online scams and how to avoid them.
What are the Most Popular Online Scams?
There is now a huge variety in the ingenious ways criminals use to extort money from us and it is impossible to detail them all. However, these are the most popular ones which require constant vigilance.
- Phishing scams
Phishing has been an issue since the mid-1990s and is still prevalent today. Fraudsters send emails or messages via social media posing as somebody trustworthy. This could be a friend or colleague, or equally they could also pretend to be sending information from a legitimate business source.
Most commonly, users are threatened with financial consequences or that an account is about to be closed unless they update their details by clicking on a link. By doing so, malware can be installed on a user’s machine, tricking them into handing over sensitive data or doing so unawares.
- Fake shopping websites
With the growth of the online shopping industry, scammers have more opportunities to exploit this than ever before. There are more and more fashion companies which operate solely online, for example, and cybercriminals can use this to their advantage.
Fake shopping websites may feature designer or branded clothing at prices that seem too good to be true, or deals on gadgets at rock-bottom prices – which ultimately don’t exist once a shopper has parted with their money.
- Online gaming scams
Online gaming is now a huge industry and where money is involved, there is always potential for theft. Gamers should be wary of a multitude of scams; offers where merchandise is given away for free, fake cheat codes or unlimited downloads for a one-off fee.
Setting up fake gaming sites is all too easy nowadays. If a scammer knows how to code, the front end of a casino or puzzle game website can be created in a matter of a few hours. They don’t need the back end – all they need is a working payment page.
- Parent/grandparent scams
This is a relatively new but unfortunately effective scam which can occur over email, WhatsApp or text messaging. Knowing that older generations are not quite so tech-savvy, cybercriminals send emails or messages claiming to be from a child or grandchild asking for urgent financial help.
- Tech support scams
As users are more aware of the threat of cybercrime, fraudsters can play on their concerns by sending emails claiming that there are viruses or vulnerabilities in someone’s computer. Unsuspecting users click on links to install anti-virus software which turns out to be malware, extracting personal and sensitive data.
How can Users Avoid Online Scams?
Whilst there is a huge prevalence of online scams, keeping personal data secure is straight-forward if internet users take some simple steps to protect themselves.
- Never take phishing emails at face value
If you receive an email from a business asking you to click on a particular link or provide personal information, do not automatically assume that it is genuine. Look at the email address it has been sent from to see if it looks authentic. Study the email to see if there is any questionable grammar or spelling. A reputable company would never send a poorly crafted message.
- When shopping online, make sure you are using secure websites
There are tell-tale signs you can look for when using online shopping sites. There should be a lock next to the URL in the browser bar and users should also beware of sites that start without a ‘www’, beginning solely with ‘http://’. If websites are badly designed or use unusual payment methods, there is a high chance that the company is not legitimate.
- Use reputable gaming sites
Gamers should endeavour to protect themselves as much as possible. Turning on multi-factor authentication offers an extra layer of protection from criminals seeking to access users’ accounts. Besides, doing background research on the reputation of a gaming developer or company can help identify whether they can be trusted. This ultimately helps users to locate the safest gaming sites, such as Bodog, the best licensed online casino in Canada, which places a high priority on safeguarding users’ personal data and provides its users with maximum security.
- Install antivirus software
Antivirus software provided by reputable companies can play a key role in guarding against online scams. Its automatic scanning processes routinely look for and remove threats and viruses, providing valuable reassurance that information remains secure. Once installed, it is crucial to update it on a regular basis, or cybersecurity may be compromised.
- Double check links before clicking on them
It is possible to hover your mouse over a link to see the preview of the site’s URL. If it comes from a company, go to the official company’s website to see if the URLs match. Users should bear in mind that these URLs must match in their entirety – if they don’t, there is a high probability that this is a scam.
Equally, clicking on links to log in is discouraged. Logging in directly on the official company website is the best way to know if an email is legitimate.
Above all, internet users should never share personal information, banking details or social media account details online. Staying safe online is just as important as locking the front door when leaving the house; neglecting cybersecurity can leave users at risk.