Know The Key Signs.
Cybersecurity threats make weekly headlines, and it affects big businesses and everyday citizens. Two important first steps are knowing the key signs of a scam and understanding your essential role in staying safe from fraudsters.
What to expect
SCAMMERS: Fake virus pop-ups on computer. Pop-ups are a tactic used in technology scams where victims are contacted by what appears to be a technology support team to fix a fabricated issue or virus on their computer. Many times they mention an urgent malware or spyware threat, or fake system notifications. Sometimes, your computer will be frozen. Common scams often pretend to be well-known companies like mention Microsoft, Geek Squad or Amazon.
HOW YOU STAY SAFE: If you get a pop-up warning on your computer, do not click it, do not call the number provided on the pop-up or on your screen. Shut your computer off immediately. Many times a restart will get rid of the scammers message. If it doesn't, you will want to take your computer to a local computer repair shop to have it removed.
SCAMMERS: Pretend to be from an organization you know. The internet is filled with data about you, and scammers know how to dig up enough information to make a scam feel believable. They may pose as your utility company, cell phone provider, or your bank. They might pretend to be a retailer you use, like Amazon or Walmart. They may act like they're from a government entity like Social Security, Medicare, or a charity that matters to you. They use tech to alter the Caller ID so the name and number look familiar. Refrain from relying on Caller ID information to be accurate.
HOW YOU STAY SAFE: Never give personal or financial information in response to a request you are not expecting. Legitimate organizations do not call, email or text you for your personal information, like your Social Security number, bank account, Secure Access Code, or credit card numbers.
SCAMMERS: Say there's a problem or a prize. They may say a problem with your account requires you to verify information or you're in trouble with the government, IRS, or Unemployment Office. They may say there is a problem with your computer. Others may tell you you've won a fabulous prize but have to pay a fee to get it or that you have a family member in grave danger and must pay money to get them safe.
HOW YOU STAY SAFE: If a company you trust contacts you and you believe it's real, it's important not to click on any links. Instead, contact them using a website you know to be authentic, or look up their phone number and call them back. Do not call a number you see on Caller ID or a phone number given to you by a call or text or via a pop-up on your computer. It's essential you make sure you're talking to a trusted organization.
SCAMMERS: Pressure you to act immediately. Scammers know how to use adrenaline and stress to distract you and get you to act before thinking. They use threats to control your behavior, sue you, take away your driver's license, or arrest you.
HOW YOU STAY SAFE: Resist the urge to act quickly. Legitimate businesses will give you the time to make a thoughtful decision. Anyone who pressures you to provide information or act immediately is likely a scammer.
SCAMMERS: Require you to pay in a specific way. Some scammers will insist you pay through a money transfer company, with crypto-currency or put money on a gift card and require you to give them the number on the back. Some will send you a check, have you cash it, and send them a portion or all of the money – only to find out later the check was fake, and you then owe the bank who cashed it the money you already mailed.
HOW YOU STAY SAFE: Know how scammers typically ask their victims to pay and don't fall for it. Never pay someone insisting on a gift card, bitcoin (or other crypto-currency), or money transfer service; never deposit a check and send money back to someone.
STOP. THINK. TALK. Before doing anything, talk to a trusted friend or advisor -- tell someone about what happened. Talking about it can help you realize it's a scam. If you have vulnerable family members or friends, please talk with them about staying safe from scammers. Use your knowledge and experience to help someone else.