Cyber Security Awareness Month 2020 – How to Spot a Scam

Published On September 30, 2020 | By Tom Huskerson | News and Analysis, Now You Know

As part of Cyber Security Awareness Month 2020 is publishing a series of articles designed to help you protect yourself online. Cyber crime is a hot business and online scams pay well for the crook. You don’t have to add to their income if you know how to protect yourself. Let me give you the basics about how scammers work.

  • Scammers gain your trust by claiming to be from a well-known business or from a government agency or impersonating a known contact.
  • Often scammers will suggest their own verification procedures, like going to websites they have created or calling numbers they provide to you.
  • They will appeal to your emotions and press your buttons to get what they want.
  • They will create a sense of urgency to get you to make decisions without thinking.

Now lets break these down and show you how these tricks work.

Gaining your trust

What better way to gain your trust than to use the name of a big well known company, a government agency or a Facebook friend? Scammers are very good at making you believe that they are someone they are not. They will claim to be from a big corporation offering you a special deal on a nice product or service.

These scammer are excellent at creating replica websites and logos that are used in emails or text messages. Trust me when I tell you; you can be fooled.

If you are specifically targeted they will know somethings about you, your family or job. They may use the name of a friend of relative. How do they know this? The answer is usually Facebook or data breach information they purchased on the dark web.

But most scams are like fishing. You put the lure out there and see what bites. Remember that scammers can send out a million emails that costs almost nothing. But if one person in that million falls for the lure he makes a pretty good profit.

Remember that email addresses can be spoofed and so can text messages. Scammers will come at you from all angles including your personal and work email, text message to your phone, social media websites, they may even use your children to get to you.

Whenever you get an enticing message from a big company with a sweet deal make sure you pump the brakes.

Trust us

Don’t trust anyone. Especially online. Anytime you get a really nice offer from anybody you do not know do your own homework. Do not use any email of phone contact information they send you to verify what they are offering. Find your own. Most companies, big and small, will have a toll free number or website based customer service. Call them or contact them and ask if the deal is for real. They may not even know their name is being used by a scammer.

Don’t trust anyone claiming to be a bank or credit card company. Remember, when comes to your money or credit you should be the one asking the questions. Hang up and call your bank with a number you have used before or call the branch you normally visit. Do not answer any questions or be threatened by a suspended account or card. Same for bill collectors or anybody claiming to be from the government. Trust no one. Do your own verification and answer no questions.

Playing mind games

Scammers will play on your emotions. The will make you fear them, feel sorry for them or anything in between. Scammers target the elderly by pretending to be grandchildren in trouble and needing money. Other times they will threaten older people with arrests, court actions or loss of Social Security benefits, if they don’t pay a fine or fee.

Make sure you prepare your elderly friends and relatives for these calls. Tell them to hang up the phone, not to divulge any information and report the call to authorities.

Scammers use every possible method to target the elderly. Including the mail. Again, make sure your parents or grandparents are aware of the threat and let them know its OK to ask you for help if they get some disturbing mail. Many elderly fear the loss of their independence and that is to be expected. So make sure they know you’re there to help and stay alert to anything that might be bothering them when it comes to their financial affairs.

For immigrants they will threaten them with deportation or other legal action if they don’t pay. Some scammers are bold enough to show up at the door of immigrant families claiming to be from the government and asking for unpaid taxes. Other time they will require the victim to send money using a money transfer or payment card.

These are all emotional mid games. The best way to avoid them is not speaking with anyone you did not initiate a call or contact with. If you have any questions at all about someone threatening legal action simply report it to the police. Especially if they are threatening to come to your home!

For immigrant families this can be a serious threat especially if they fear the police or being deported or don’t understand how things work in the U.S. The scammers are depending on this. My best advice to these people is get immediate legal aid from a community based organization or immigrant advocate group. Do not pay anyone to get them to leave you alone.

Other scams use threats like telling your employer or spouse embarrassing information about you. They may threaten to damage your credit, email friends or co-workers with salacious lies or reveal personal information about you. This can strike fear in a person. But remember that most of the time you will know if the scammer is bluffing. And even if the do have some embarrassing information on you keep your money and report it to the police. Trust me you will get over it.

Another way a scammer will play with your emotions is to make you believe that you are about to come into some money. Greed!

It used to be known as the Nigerian Prince scam. It was pretty simple. The email scammer asks to use your bank account to transfer money out of his country and you get a cut, usually a few million dollars. They get your banking information and wipe you out. Because you thought you were going to be rich for nothing!

This scam has become slightly more sophisticated with many variations but the results are the same. Here;s one; a Russian businessman needs to hide a few hundred thousand dollars until he can get to the U.S. to claim the money. He’ll give you $50,000 to help him, You get the idea what happens.

Do not fall for any get rich quick and free scams. Greed has made many people pay.

Do this now!

Scammer can and will push you to do something…now! As I said earlier they will claim to be coming to your home. Or they will suspend your bank account or credit card in one hour unless you pay a bill. They will threaten your home, your driver’s license, your business license, your job, anything they know you hold dear if your don’t act now.

This is a common scam, Stop and think. Tax collectors are not coming to your home without plenty of prior notice. Business license suspension, driver’s license suspension, and other legal action usually happen after a court appearance. So don’t play the fool in this game. In the event someone threatens to come to your house call the police. If they threaten to come to your job notify your employer.

One of the newest scams is the called the student in college scam. It works like this; someone pretending to be from the student’s college calls the parent and advises them that they must make an immediate payment to cover certain expenses or the child will be suspended from class, kicked out of the dorm, etc. The trick is that the sum is usually small, about $200 dollars. This takes the victim off their guard. They then give up their credit card information and the scammers run up huge charges on the card.

Don’t be in a hurry to make a problem go away if you have any doubts at all. Remember, speed kills.

Now you know.

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About The Author

Tom Huskerson Bio Born in Richmond Virginia Tom Huskerson is a military veteran who settled in California after his discharge. Tom attended Santa Barbara City College where he began his writing career as a campus reporter. He worked as an intern news reporter for the Santa Barbara News-Press writing feature stories before moving on to San Francisco. At San Francisco State University Tom studied broadcast communications and began to focus on the Internet. He completed his graduate thesis on Internet advertising. Tom was the first student to ever focus on the Internet as a graduate student at San Francisco State University. After graduation he went to work for Zona Research in California’s Silicone Valley. As a research associate Tom supported senior analyst writing on the latest developments in the Internet industry. During the dot com boom Tom worked for several web businesses as a market researcher and analyst. As a writer and researcher Tom has authored various technical works including a training program for Charles Schwab security. Other projects included professional presentations on workplace violence and hiring security contractors. Tom has also written both fiction and non-fiction works and blogging for a travel website. He has published two books of short stories and completed two novels. Tom is the owner of Scribe of Life Literature and Tom is not the chief editor for the OnTechStreet. com. A news and information blog that focuses on tech news for African-Americans. The blog is the result of his desire to inform the African American community of the dangers and benefits of the cyber age. In his blog Tom reports on information security, new and analysis, scams and hoaxes, legal happenings and various topics that arise from the age of information. Tom believes that technology is a necessary tool for black people and they should know what is happening. Tom writes believing that techno speak is for the professional and that valuable information can be communicated using plain language. As a result he has embraced the motto, Less Tech, More Knowledge.

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