7 Shocking Cyber Scams

Fool me once...

Con artists, grifters, operators, and swindlers are all scammers who want to trick you out of money by gaining your confidence, as opposed to thieves who just steal it. And yes, they may also be called confidence men and flim-flam men—but we all know that men and women can scam equally.

Now, thanks (or no thanks!) to modern technology and the popularity of the internet, we can add hackers—people who break into our computers and mobile devices with malicious intent—to our list of scammers. Hackers are innovative, and there are lots of cyber scams that can easily catch us off guard. To ensure you don’t become a victim, or mark, know the lingo.

Cramming

Finding charges on your phone bill for ringtones, trivia, or other services you didn’t order? The fraudulent practice of adding unauthorized charges to a customer's phone bill is called cramming.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that as many as 20 million people are crammed annually—and most people aren’t aware they’ve been scammed. The most common charge is $9.99, according to the FCC—and they’re often listed as “tax” or “service fee,” making them easy to miss.

Best advice: Read your bill carefully.

Phishing

Phishing (pronounced fishing) is the use of emails that look like they’re from your bank or another legitimate organization, but link to fake websites. These authentic-looking emails are designed to trick you into responding with sensitive personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.

Best advice: Never share personal information via email.

Pharming

Pharming (pronounced farming) is similar to phishing, in that it aims to steal your confidential information. Pharming works by redirecting victims to a fake site even if they typed the correct web address.

Best advice: Once the web page is loaded, check that the URL is spelled correctly—for instance, it doesn’t have additional letters or letters in the wrong positions. Also, use a legitimate internet service provider (ISP); most are on the lookout for pharmers.

Whaling

Whaling is yet another phishing scam, but it targets business executives and managers. It aims to swindle someone into revealing confidential corporate information. In a whaling scam, you receive a personal email that seems to come from a reputable source within or outside your company, such as a financial consultant or lawyer.

Best advice: Be aware, verify the sender’s email, and don’t provide any financial or sensitive information or passwords.

Ransomware

Ransomware is a malicious computer program that restricts or disables your computer and then demands, typically via a pop-up window, that you pay a fee to fix the problem.

In May 2017, some 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries were hit by the WannaCry ransomware attack.

Best advice: Make sure your device’s software is up to date—and back up your data.

Scareware

Scareware—a type of malware, short for “malicious software”—displays a pop-up warning that your computer is infected. It wants to trick you into buying unnecessary and potentially dangerous protection software.

Best advice: Don’t click on the “download” button.

RUMBLE

RUMBLE (recruitment of unwitting money-launderers by bogus letters of employment) is a job scam. In a nutshell, the scammers claim they need an overseas “agent” who can accept payments and then forward these payments back to them in an acceptable format such as a wire transfer.

They promise you a percentage of the payments transferred. In reality, these schemes are designed to “launder” stolen funds. Scammers may also trick victims into revealing personal information.

Best advice: Hit the delete key.