Cont.

"How To Spot and Stop Scammers"

By Sanjay Mathur

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Before we discuss how we spot and stop targeted scams in cyberspace, let us examine the possible doors through which scammers gain entry in our online space.

 

The most common doors that scammer exploit or push open are the social media, email, chat, direct messaging and phone calls.

 

There are other exploits that are pulled open by the victim inadvertently by double-clicking on a bad or malicious link. Through the push or pull of the cyber doors, the scammers are crafting newer and smarter exploits day in and day out.

 

The basic motive of these exploits remains the same--to steal something of value from you. It may

be your personal and sensitive information, your money or your identity. However, the tools, techniques and mannerisms may differ widely.

 

The good news is that this USA government website, www.usa.gov/common-scams-frauds lists the most common and reported scams consolidated in one place.


The question is amongst all these variations of exploits, are there common indicators that can be spotted to identify a scam?

 

The answer is yes. There are few common and loudly clear indicators of scams.

 

Spoofing

This is age-old technique of deception. The scammer assumes the identity of somebody you know and trust, with the hope you will not check, verify or validate and take the trap.

 

This begs a question: how do you authenticate a person online? You may cross-check out of “band.” Let's say, during an online chat, if a person claims she is your daughter’s best friend, give your daughter a call from your landline or any other “band.”

 

Why not use the same band? Because the scammer might be monitoring the primary band of attack and would know you were checking on her and be alert. Worse, she might intercept your communication and alter it.


Strange Behavior

If somebody is extremely sweet and helpful, while avoiding your attempts to authenticate her, be alert.


 Alternatively, if somebody gives you awfully bad news out of the blue, like somebody close to you met with an accident and needs your credit card information now or you must give your tax details now to avoid freezing of your bank account or your immigration status is about to be revoked unless you provide the following information now.


Do not panic, but verify and validate the information out of band. Do not act in haste because someone sounds official, convincing or too sweet to be malicious.

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Identify the bait

Get in the mindset of a scammer. For catching a gigantic fish, they are ready to sacrifice a small fish.

 

A popular form of such scam plays out like this: A stranger calls you and tells you that you overpaid an account. She will help you get the money back.

 

For that you must provide your card details. You are glad to get back your “overpaid” money back in your account. You do get the money back as promised. The lady calls again to confirm.


You thank her, she tells you her name is Tara and requests you to give her an honest review, if her manager calls. You promise.

 

Tara is now in your good books. After a month or so Tara calls again, and zestfully tells you, “Hey! You overpaid again last month.”

 

She tells you this time the amount is more than $50 so, few more details are needed. Trusting her, and why not, you provide the details happily. She has

your full digital identity now.

 

As promised, you receive your $51.05 in your account. You do not suspect a thing. You think Tara

is a good person. Really? Later, when you are declined a loan, you realize you had lost your identity for a bait of little more than $50 set by Tara skillfully.


Let us now discuss how to stop a scam.

You could use a spam blocker and email filter from your service provider or get it as a paid service.

 

This may help reduce the spams you get and thus

the probability of you getting scammed, too.


Remember though, not all scams can be identified and blocked automatically at the entry-point.

Some spams would invariably find their way to reach

you.


You must exercise discretion on every online message, verify the intention of the sender and the authenticity of the source before sharing your personal information, credit card details, bank account or health information.

 

Also, before somebody tempts you to double-click on a link sent to you, please confirm the following: Why this person is asking me to click on this link? How am I sure the message has come from the person it claims to be and not spoofed by someone else?


The golden rule of cyber safety is this:



“Think once before clicking, think twice before double-clicking.”



Finally, if all your efforts to spot and stop a scam fail and you do fall pray of a scam or a fraud, the question is how would you know you have been scammed?

 

Well, there are known manifestations of a scam such as your credit card or your bank account may have unknown entries, your credit application may be declined, your credit rating may show a sudden drop, your contacts complain of scams coming their way from your email address.

 

If you are in such an unfortunate condition, and would like to know how to contact the right law Enforcement Agency, visit the website, www.usa.gov/stop-scams-frauds and choose the option, “Report Scams and Frauds.”


For cyber safety, just reinterpret and adapt your childhood learning of physical safety. That is all.


Interpret “Don’t talk to strangers” as “Don’t interact with unknown and unauthenticated people online.”


Interpret “Don’t take candy from strangers” as “Don’t take a bait from a scammer.”


Interpret “Don’t go to unknown places” as “Don’t double-click on unknown links.”


“If it doesn't feel right, it is not right” does not need any new interpretation. It remains sound advice both in physical and cyber space.

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