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In 2021, 57% of digital crimes fell under the umbrella of scams and fraud. That’s according to data shared by Group-IB, which also reported that the three most common distribution channels for scams organized by cyber criminals were social media ads, social media posts, and emails.

With over 70% of all Americans using at least some form of social media on a regular basis, it’s no surprise that criminals have turned to these channels and platforms to prey on vulnerable and unsuspecting victims.

If you’re like most people in the U.S. and you use social media sites regularly to keep up with friends, engage with brands, discover new products, and consume content, you need to stay vigilant when it comes to protecting yourself. Cybercriminals are lurking in the shadows, waiting for the next person to fall prey to one of their scams.

If you want to prevent yourself from becoming another one of their victims, spend some time reading about five increasingly prevalent types of scams you might encounter in the near future:

1. Credit Card Skimming

One of the fastest-growing scams impacting people around the world is what’s known as credit card skimming. The FBI reports that “skimming costs financial institutions and consumers more than $1 billion each year.”

Skimming occurs when criminals install devices on fuel pumps. ATMs, or point-of-sale terminals to capture financial data and pins from consumers.

These devices are difficult to detect because they are made to fit into the design of the real credit card acceptance device you interact with when buying gas or withdrawing money from your bank account.

But criminals go even further than this to capture your personal data.

An article from Bently University explains that “sometimes thieves will also put small cameras near an ATM to view the keyboard as the unwary customer inserts his or her PIN into the ATM or other card reader. More sophisticated criminals will install a phony keypad over the real keypad to record the PIN and then transmit this information back to them in a text message.”

To avoid falling victim to this scam, take the following tips into consideration:

  • Only use ATMs within a bank building
  • Cover the pin pad when entering your pin to shield it from view
  • If a credit card receiving terminal on a gas pump, ATM, or retail shop looks unusual, don’t use it
  • Pull at credit card receivers before using them to see if fake devices come off
  • Pay close attention to your bank statements and review charges daily to catch fraudulent activity before it gets worse.

2. Charity & Disaster Relief Fraud

Recent increases in natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic have unfortunately created more opportunities for criminals who want to trick people into giving money to help others.

In this scam, criminals get unsuspecting victims to donate money or provide personal information by making them believe they are contributing to a charity in need.

According to the FBI, this type of crime increases in prevalence after natural disasters like hurricanes or wildfires. They also saw more examples of this crime as a result of the release of economic stimulus payments, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the situation in Ukraine.

The AARP says that “sham charities succeed by mimicking the real thing. Like genuine nonprofits, they reach you via telemarketing, direct mail, email and door-to-door solicitations. They create well-designed websites with deceptive names. (Cybersecurity firm DomainTools noted a huge jump in URL registrations with the words "Ukraine" and "Ukrainian" in the days after Russia's invasion.)”

To avoid falling victim to this scam, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Don’t give out personal information like your social security number to anyone soliciting donations
  • Look closely at the name, URL, and website of the charity attempting to get money from you
  • Avoid clicking on donation links from ads on Facebook or Twitter—these can be attempts by criminals to add malware to your device
  • Do your research - try to understand as much as you can about an organization before donating money

3. Business Email Compromise (BEC)

As more people switched from working at offices to working from their homes, the world saw more cases of business email compromise scams.

In this scam, criminals send emails to employees that appear as if they are coming from a boss or leader at the company they work for. The email asks employees to help with an urgent favor, such as buying digital gift cards, performing a wire transfer, or sending credit card information.

The email is set up in a way so that the email address and name look legitimate, which tricks unsuspecting employees into falling for the scam.

Criminals perform social engineering to find the right companies and the right employees to target. They look for contact information online and on social media sites like LinkedIn and then pull names and even photos to make their fake emails look real to the victims receiving them.

To avoid falling victim to this scam, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Never respond to an email address that looks different than what you’re used to seeing when communicating with your boss
  • If a request seems oddly urgent, it’s likely a scam
  • Always follow up with the person who’s trying to get you to help using another form of communication, such as a phone call or instant message
  • Never perform a wire transfer without confirming first with a manager
  • Use common sense—if you’ve never communicated with the CEO at your company before and suddenly they’re reaching out to you for help, it’s very likely a scam

4. Elder Fraud

As the U.S. population continues to age, more elderly people are being targeted and taken advantage of by criminals.

According to the Population Reference Bureau, “the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise from 16 percent to 23 percent.”

What makes aging adults ideal targets? Here are 3 reasons why criminals target them more than other age groups:

  • Reason #1: Many senior adults are simply not as familiar with the technology and online tools of today.
  • Reason #2: Many senior adults have more savings built up than younger people.
  • Reason #3: Many seniors aren’t aware of common threats and scams that can occur online.

Criminals use a number of different methods to scam elderly people: phishing attempts, malware, home title theft, family member impersonation, catfishing, and more.

The goal of a criminal is to get vulnerable elderly people to provide them with personal information that they can use to access accounts or open fraudulent accounts and loans.

To protect yourself from this type of scam, keep the following in mind:

  • Never give out personal information over the phone or through social media
  • Don’t click on links you don’t recognize on social media or in emails
  • Keep your computer software up-to-date
  • Communicate with someone you trust who can help you evaluate whether phone calls and emails from businesses and financial institutions are legitimate

5. Vishing

Vishing is a form of phishing that uses social engineering tactics to trick victims into giving information or money to criminals.

For vishing scams, criminals rely on communication that happens over the phone. In these types of scams, a criminal collects personal information about a victim, calls them acting as a legitimate company, then convinces them to send money or provide personal information that they can use to open fraudulent accounts.

To make calls seem legitimate, criminals scour the internet for personal information they can use when speaking to a victim. They might look up your name, employer, address, email address, and names of family members. They also spoof phone numbers so that when you Google it to check, it comes back as a number listed on your financial institution’s website. They even go so far as to play audio tracks of call centers in the background to make you believe that they are calling from a reputable company.

To protect yourself from falling victim to this type of scam, the biggest thing to pay attention to is the urgency being communicated by the person you’re talking to. If they are making very urgent, confusing demands, it may be a sign that you are being targeted by a criminal.

Final Thoughts

Scammers prey on vulnerable people who don’t know how to recognize criminal behavior when they encounter it. These tips will help you keep your money and your assets from falling into the wrong hands.

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