2018’s Worst Cyber Scams

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What a year 2018 was… for cyber-criminals that is. According to the Better Business Bureau there were just over 47,000 scams added to their BBB Scam Tracker.

Cyber-criminals often repeat their “tried and true” favorite scams, which are often prevalent around major financial high points in the year, such as holidays, tax times, fiscal high marks, etc. Here is a list of some new scams that were reported and made the news in 2018.

Gift Card Scams

The BBB is warning people about emails offering help to check their gift card balances. If you receive one of these emails, do not click open or click links within. Scammers use these emails in order to get your card number and PIN in order to drain your account. Here are some tips to avoid gift card balance scams:

  • Go to the retailer’s website: If you need to check a gift card balance, go to the site listed on the back of the card itself. If there is none, go to the website of the company and look for a link to the gift card page.

  • Examine the gift card before buying: Before purchasing a gift card, be sure to look it over thoroughly to make sure the PIN isn’t exposed, or the packaging hasn’t been tampered with.

  • Register your gift card with the retailers: If the retailer allows the option to register your gift card, take full advantage. registering your gift card makes it easier to keep track of any misuse occurring, that way you can report it sooner and potentially end up saving the money that is stored.

Instagram Fake Ads

It can be difficult to tell what’s real or not on social media these days—including advertisements. Scammers often post fake ads to get you to buy one product only to send you a cheap knockoff. Instagram has offered some tips if you think you have come across a suspicious ad:

  • You can learn more about an account if you go to their profile, tap the menu and then select “About This Account.” There, you can see the date the account joined Instagram, the country where the account is located, accounts with shared followers, and username changes. Within “About this Account,” you can also see all ads that the business is currently running.

  • People can report an account, an ad, or a post that they feel is misleading. To report an ad, click the “…” on the top right of the ad and click Report Ad. Follow the on-screen instructions and select “It’s a scam or it’s misleading.”

  • You can always go back and visit your own ad interactions, including all ads you have clicked on in Stories and Feed, from the past 90 days within your Settings.

Jury Duty Scams

Another new spoofing phone call scam has popped up and involves scammers posing as judicial officials or police and calling people to let them know they failed to report for jury duty and owe a fine. Scammers can spoof law enforcement phone numbers or names so people receiving the call may think that the call is legitimate.

Netflix Scam

One scam that duped a ton of people this years was claiming to be the popular streaming service. Netflix was the target of an email phishing scam featuring the subject line “payment declined,” which may get your attention if you are a subscriber. The email wants you to click on a link to update your credit card information. If you see this don’t click on the link because it can be dangerous malware. Visit your Netflix account by typing the address in yourself to check your account as a safer means of verifying your account status. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a warning to consumers about emails being sent requesting updated payment info. Netflix has stated that customers can get more info to protect themselves against phishing scams and other malicious activity at netflix.com/security or by contacting its customer service department directly.

Romance Scams

A romance scam typically involves a criminal setting up an account on a dating site with fake information and photos for a profile that is too good to be true. Once a target has been established, the scam usually escalates to the thief’s unveiling of a money problem. Typical scenarios include the request for funds so he or she can travel to meet you in person or to help a sick relative. Unfortunately, seniors are the primary targets for romance scams, since they often spend more time alone as they age. Romance scams cost Americans more than $230 million as nearly 15,000 people were conned in 2016, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Airbnb Scam

This scam takes advantage of travelers renting an apartment or house through Airbnb by featuring fake homes on the site and directing the renter to a fraudulent or “spoof” website to finalize payment. Scammers will often even trick real owners, who don’t know their property is being spoofed. Potential travelers end up paying money for a rental property that either doesn’t exist or isn’t available.

Apple Care Scam

This new smartphone scam uses phishing emails to send Apple users to a fake Apple website. iPhone users receive a pop-up image of a system dialog box that tells users their phone has been “locked for illegal activity.” When users click on the link, scammers enroll them into a fraudulent “mobile device management service” that allows scammers to send malware apps to iPhones. This often catches Apple users because so many of them have a false sense of security with Apple devices.

“Can You Hear Me?” and “Yes” Calls

This scam happens when you answer the phone, and the person on the other line asks: “Can you hear me?” and you respond, “Yes.” Your voice is being recorded to obtain a voice signature for scammers authorize fraudulent charges over the phone. You can visit the FCC website to block any unwanted calls. The BBB Scam Tracker received more than 10,000 reports on the “Can you hear me?” scam, but none of the reports resulted in an actual loss of money.

Amazon Fake Order Cancellation Emails

If you get an email about an order cancellation from Amazon.com, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. Click on links in the email and you could unintentionally download malware onto your device. Or you might be sent to a site that aims to collect your Amazon account information, like your username and password. If you receive such an email and recently placed an order, go to Amazon.com to check your order status.

Death Threat Scam

The FBI has warned consumers about death threats being made through emails that state “I will be short. I’ve got an order to kill you.”

The email then demands money or bitcoin as a payout from the email recipients. Other versions of the scam could state that a “hit man has been hired to kill” them. This scam is very aggressive and threatening in nature to convince people that they have to pay or else.

So How Can You Protect Yourself From Being Scammed?

To avoid being scammed, you have to remain diligent and alert and follow these steps:

  • Assess the validity of all messages that you receive from people and business that you do not know. That includes any unsolicited phone calls, people knocking on your door, emails sent you—even those that look like they are from a company you do business with, or family and friends—and letters received in the mail that look like they are official.

  • Any emails and links sent to you that seem off should be checked first, by rolling your cursor over them with your mouse before actually clicking on the link. Look at the destination URL is to see if it looks legitimate or not.

  • Scammers will also pose as impostors from businesses or organizations and call or approach you in person. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently warned people about scammers posing as CFPB employees.

Criminals will go to great lengths to try to pressure you with demands for money or payments. If you feel you are being victimized, make sure to report the scam to the proper government agency, your local Better Business Bureau office, and your local police department.