7 of the easiest ways people can scam you
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Boku does not require credit cards or mobile wallets, shifting payments straight to customer phone bills (Photo credit: YouTube Screenshot, Boku)

Boku does not require credit cards or mobile wallets, shifting payments straight to customer phone bills (Photo credit: YouTube Screenshot, Boku)

Let’s look at the most widespread social engineering tricks and find out how to secure your information

In today’s digital world stuffed with scams, it’s vital to be able to protect yourself against any takeover attempts and keep your data safe. The scam-combating techniques evolve with rocketing speed, but they cannot fight against one thing: the human factor. This advantage over machines makes hundreds of swindlers richer every day.

How can you overcome the seemingly unstoppable enemy? First, those forewarned are forearmed. Let’s look at the most widespread social engineering tricks and find out how to secure your information. 

1. Phishing

How it works: You receive an email from an allegedly big sender, like a reputed e-shop or large website where you have an account. They ask you to follow the link or open an attached file. The moment you click on it, your security is broken.

Phishing is also done by creating website clones – a fake copy of a true website. Believing it’s a real site, you start entering your personal data there. By doing so, you provide your sensitive details to hackers. 

How to keep safe: Never click on links in suspicious emails. It is better to type the website address yourself in the address bar of your browser or find it on the web search. If asked to change a password, log in with your current password and double-check if the password change is really required. And definitely do not click on software or media downloads from unknown sites.

2. Ransomware attacks

How it works: The infection vector is similar to phishing attacks, but you are required to pay for your encrypted data to be given back to you unaffected.

How to keep safe: Since ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly popular, you need to keep yourself safe. First, you have to have regular backups. Also, follow the “How to keep safe” tips from the phishing section above.

3. Pretexting

How it works: An alleged officer of some company where you have your personal data stored, like a bank, reaches out to you on the phone. Under the guise of verifying some information, they ask you to tell them your card number, password, personal details, etc. 

How to keep safe: Call back to wherever the call is supposed to originate from and double-check if it is not a fake. Also, in this day and age, there is probably no reason someone would call you randomly on the phone to verify personal information. There is no “pretext” for such a move. 

4. Quid pro quo

How it works: From Latin, it means “something for something.” A scammer gives you a call pretending to be a technical support engineer and informing you of the need to fix your computer facing a malware attack. Should you suffer from any kind of computer problems at the moment, you may fall for the trick. Once you give them access, you are punching a hole in your defense.

How to keep safe: Verify with your service provider that this “expert” is a true one.

5. Dumpster diving

How it works: Sophisticated scammers can cause you lots of trouble if they find confidential information that you recklessly left in a bin.

How to keep safe: Avoid using traditional trash bins for strategically important information. Instead, make use of shredding machines.

6. Tailgating

How it works: Also known as “piggybacking,” this is when someone is trying to enter a building behind someone else with an access card.  

How to keep safe: Ignore courtesy and don’t let any stranger follow you card-free.

7. Social networking

How it works: Too much personal information left on social networks puts not only the users themselves at risk, but also their family, friends, and companies they work for.

How to keep safe: Be thoughtful of what you post online. Keep your financial and ID details like phone numbers, emails, residential addresses, and business information a secret.

Scammers making fortunes on our weaknesses

No one is safe from scam attacks. Whether ordinary people or celebs, we are all subject to fraudulent actions once we show up with our human weaknesses. Take the examples of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and others, whose nude shots were stolen by Ryan Collins as a result of a hack attack on their iCloud and Google accounts, as a cautionary tale. Using phishing techniques, the hacker easily got the passwords and usernames of his victims.

Yet another loud scam case involved a media biggie, Rupert Murdoch, whose employees were reported to be continuously stealing the secrets of dozens of politicians and celebrities by hacking their voicemails, including those protected by passwords that appeared to be too simple. 

We all understand that humans make mistakes. But sometimes our greed, curiosity, or plain negligence is just another contribution to the global development of social engineering. Now, do your best to avoid a human error – which can, in fact, ruin all your safety efforts.

The views expressed are of the author.

Geektime invites global tech and startup professionals to share their opinions and expertise with our readers. If you would like to share your point of view, please contact us at info@geektime.com.

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David Balaban

About David Balaban


David Balaban is a computer security researcher with over 15 years of experience in malware analysis and antivirus software evaluation. David runs the Privacy-PC.com project which presents expert opinions on the contemporary information security matters, including social engineering, penetration testing, threat intelligence, online privacy and white hat hacking.

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