Welcome to Cybersecurity 101 wherein we give you some pointers on how to spot a scam in the digital world. The prerequisites of this course are simple; a keen eye for details, and a tiny itty bitty common sense.
Before we delve into our syllabus, let us first crunch the numbers. If you think scams rarely happen because humans are the highest intellectual beings on the planet, think again! In Singapore alone, more than S$201 million was cheated in the top 10 scam types last year.
Well, we can just rationalize that the smartest being in the world is also being duped by a fellow smart being. Fair enough.
Who’s the culprit? 🕵️
It’s a no-brainer that as technology progresses and evolves, cybersecurity threats do too. However, the sharp increase in incidents for the past 2 years have been alarming.
The total number of scam cases reported rose by 65.1% from 9,545 cases in 2019 to 15,756 last year. These scam cases also made up a bigger proportion of overall crime — 42.1% last year compared to 27.2% in 2019.
There is definitely a great contributing factor. And yes, you guessed it right: it’s the pandemic.
Where’s the body of the crime? 🔎
To get away from a scammer, you need to know the most common ploy they perpetuate. These nefarious schemes can be found almost everywhere and in every digital transaction you make.
“In particular, online scams saw a significant increase as Singaporeans carried out more online transactions due to the COVID-19 situation,” Singapore Police Force disclosed in its February annual crime brief.
Statistics reveal that e-commerce remains as the top venue where scams are found. Being an online shoppaholic really does have its drawbacks. The total amount cheated in e-commerce cases tripled from S$2.3 million in 2019 to S$6.9 million last year, the police said.
Still thinking about buying that $100 Louis Vuitton bag?
Social media impersonation scams and banking-related phishing scams also registered significant increases in 2020, the police said.
Unsurprisingly, Instagram and Facebook were among the most common social media platforms where scams are found to be perpetuated.
How to spot a scam? 🤔
Scams can be quite difficult to recognize. Firstly, cybercriminals are one of the most expert-researchers in the digital field. They are sort of master illusionists and con-artists combined into one.
Luckily, we’ve curated some of the best tips on how to spot a scam before clicking that big red button or swiping that card:
Citizens Advice points out that generally, it might be a scam if:
- it seems too good to be true — for example, a holiday that’s much cheaper than you’d expect
- someone you don’t know contacts you unexpectedly
- you’ve been asked to transfer money quickly
- you’ve been asked to pay in an unusual way — for example, by iTunes vouchers or through a transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union
- you’ve been asked to give away personal information like passwords or PINs
E-commerce scam signs
Scam Watch notes that in e-commerce, there are certain specific signs that to watch out for:
1. It’s not secure. When online shopping, always look for the https (not http) and the padlock icon in the address bar to ensure there’s a secure connection between you and the website. Don’t rely on this alone, as some scam websites use https too.
2. It’s using a non-secure payment method. Think about how they’re asking you to pay. Scammers often ask you to pay by non-secure payment methods such as wire, bank or international funds transfers, money orders, pre-loaded gift cards, and cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. These methods are difficult to track and it’s rare to recover money sent this way. Always look for secure payment options such as PayPal or credit card.
Social Media scam signs
On social media, on the other hand, AARP has quite a number of good indicators of scam posts.
1. The post redirects you. A post that directs you to another website to claim a prize, win a gift card, take a quiz, fill out a survey or see a scandalous video.
2. They’re soliciting for something. Posts and direct messages that ask for money, even if they appear to be from someone you know; that person’s profile may have been hacked or duplicated.
An email from the prince of Nigeria saying that he’s about to give you inheritance might be the oldest trick in the book, but these threat actors can still come up with nifty ways to deceive you.
Getting away from a scammer means spotting their strategy before falling for their trap. While this might be tricky especially if you are not constantly exposed to the digital world, the tips we’ve mentioned above are still good pointers to keep in mind.
Always remember to keep vigilant for new tactics cybercriminals can use against you. As the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat!