Online fraud can be seen as the price to pay for the ubiquity of digital services. These services make our lives easier, healthier, safer and more fun. But…
There are several cybercriminals waiting for an opportunity to run an online scam and steal our identities and money. Their ingenuity and our credulity make fraud a multibillion-dollar challenge.
Prevention is always the best approach, but we're only human. And our opponents are increasingly resourceful and determined. This means that we must also be prepared to react quickly if we are deceived – to minimize the impact on our lives and ensure that cybercriminals don't profit off of us.
Online Scam: Two sides of the same coin
Sometimes it is obvious that something has gone wrong. Maybe you've just clicked on a phishing link and then realized what you've done…you've fallen into an online scam. Or maybe you ended up on a call with a fake support technician who you gave access to your PC. But in other cases, it's less obvious. For example, if cybercriminals acquire your credit card or personal data through a security hole in a service you use, they will typically sell it on a cybercrime marketplace.
This personal data will then be purchased in bulk and used in automated attacks, including phishing, payment fraud or account theft. Account logins can be sold separately to give unscrupulous buyers access to your streaming services, gaming, etc.
The bad news is that there continues to be a steady supply of stolen data circulating in cybercrime markets.
5 signs you've become a victim of fraud
With this in mind, ESET, a leading European company in cybersecurity solutions, here are five signs that it has been the victim of an online scam:
#1- Suspicious transactions or lines of credit
If cybercriminals have obtained your bank details, they can use them in payment fraud – where data from stolen credit cards or stored in stolen accounts is used without your knowledge.
Alternatively, they can use your identity to make new credit cards. The first case can be identified through strange activity in your bank account. The second is more difficult to detect, until you receive a letter or email notifying you of late payments.
#2 – Purchased product did not arrive
E-commerce fraud is another growing problem. Cybercriminals list expensive equipment online at very attractive prices, but there is no stock: they simply take the buyer's money and do not deliver anything. They often demand payment through apps that don't offer as much protection as a bank.
#3 – A romantic contact disappears
Romance fraud is a multi-million business. Incidents often go unreported because victims feel embarrassed for falling for the scam.
A romance cybercriminal typically builds an online relationship with their victim before asking for money under various excuses such as medical expenses or transportation costs. When they feel that the victim has nothing left to give, they suddenly disappear, completely breaking contact.
#4 – Loss of access to accounts
If a cybercriminal obtains any of your logins, they will usually access the associated account and change the password. This account can be anything from a social media account to an Uber or Netflix account.
These accounts can be mined for personal data such as bank details, but they can also be valuable in their own right. For example, an Instagram account can be used to spam your followers.
#5 – Inability to withdraw funds from a cryptocurrency investment.
Investment fraud is another popular type of scheme, running into the billions in annual profit. Victims are typically encouraged to invest in fake funds, sometimes even tracking their supposed growth on fraudulent apps or websites. Then, when they finally try to withdraw your money, the cybercriminals cut off contact and disappear.
It was deceived? What to do next…
If a large amount of money is involved, the best thing to do is contact the local authorities. They can also help you make a recovery plan.
The next entity to contact, if bank details have been stolen, should be your bank. Call your bank's helpline or use banking apps to cancel any cards potentially compromised by cybercriminals. Then just ask for replacement cards.
ESET also recommends other steps to recover from a cyberattack and protect yourself in the future:
- Change passwords: use strong and unique passwords, ideally stored and organized with a password manager.
- two-factor authenticationadding an extra layer of protection to passwords to mitigate the threat of phishing and account theft.
- Keep devices and software up to date.
- Do not keep personal data and banking on an online account. Although it's not as convenient to have to enter the data every time, it's safer this way.
- Ensure all devices are protected with security software from a trusted manufacturer, such as ESET Internet Security.
Fraud is not inevitable. But if it does, stay calm and follow these steps to minimize its impact.