The biggest frauds expected next year and how to avoid becoming a scam victim: Internet Scambusters #991
If you've never been a scam victim, you're lucky. And it's not for want of trying on the part of crooks. They're certainly after you.
But what are the most common scams you're likely to face in the coming year and how can you spot and beat them?
In this week's issue, we give a brief look-back on the past year and outline what to expect in 2022 -- plus our top tips for your protection.
Let's get started…
Don't Be A Scam Victim In 2022!
Will you be a scam victim in 2022? We certainly hope not. But one thing's for sure: You'll be targeted.
Most of us has been in scammers' sights at some time. For instance, research shows that half of us have had our social media accounts compromised. Virtually all of us have also had personal information stolen in data breaches.
The FBI alone receives more than 800,000 internet crime reports every year, costing Americans an estimated $4 billion!
As the online crime rate continues to rise, you need to be on your guard 24/7. It's only a matter of time.
The Most Common Personal Scams in 2021
Scammers mostly want just one thing: Your money. They get it either by tricking you into giving it to them or by stealing or buying information about you to commit identity theft.
In the past year, the ongoing global health crisis has sparked lots of tricks, such as stimulus check scams and phony COVID cure or protection claims.
Other areas that have seen a scam surge during 2021 include ransomware, government impostors, cybercurrency fraud, dishonest influencers, charity collectors, and phony tech support.
Meanwhile, the big non-financial scam continues to be the promotion of fake news. It's getting to the point now that you have to question almost everything you watch, read, or hear.
The Big Scams for 2022
Based on current trends, here's where you can expect to see more scams than ever in 2022.
Ransomware: This extortion crime -- which involves hacking or sneaking onto someone's computer and locking it until a ransom is paid -- is expected to be the fastest growing cybercrime in 2022, after climbing more than 20 percent this year.
It's mostly aimed at big organizations, but individuals are targeted too. Plus, we're often the ones to suffer if service providers, like health organizations, get frozen out.
Malware and Hacking: As with ransomware, crooks are finding new ways to get onto your PC by tricking you into downloading files that steal information or turn your device into a "zombie" botnet (robot network) for spamming.
They may also try to access machines directly through weak security or by pretending to be tech support specialists.
Impostors: When it comes down to it, nearly all financial scams involve impostors -- people who pretend to be someone else. They may say they're from the IRS, Social Security Administration, lottery promoters, utility companies, banks and card companies, or even a friend or relative in distress.
The crooks usually demand payment via untraceable methods such as money wiring services, Bitcoin payments, gift cards and, most recently, cash -- which they may even offer to collect directly from you.
Phishing: Scammers love phishing -- tricking you into giving away personal information via impostors, fake website pages, email, text, and illegal robocalls.
Expect to see renewed government attempts to control robocalls and spam next year -- but the crooks will try to stay one step ahead. Being on the do-not-call register, while a wise move, won't protect you from the scammers because they simply ignore it.
Fake offers: From fraudulent investment schemes -- especially for cybercurrency -- through job schemes and debt repair, to fake websites used for phishing or phony online stores selling non-existent products.
As more of us than ever use our PCs and mobile devices for shopping, investment and information searches, the incidence of these crimes will continue to rise.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): Not a scam itself but a weapon increasingly being used by crooks. AI will become a more widespread scam tool for all manner of tactics -- like improving grammar and spelling, breaking passwords and maybe, in the not-too-distant future, decoding encrypted files.
Partly as a response to this, we expect to see the replacement of passwords in the next few years by biometric identification like facial recognition and touch.
Data Breaches: There's no reason to think the theft of customer data from big organizations will slow down in the coming year. It's more likely to continue soaring.
The black-market cost for an individual's confidential information is falling, so crooks need to increase the amount they steal.
How to Protect Yourself Against Scams
A few simple actions will steer you clear of most scams in 2022 -- like always being skeptical and researching about anything you encounter -- from sensational news, through lottery winnings and distress calls, to too-good-to-be-true products and investment opportunities.
Beware of influencers too. Some of them are genuine but, remember, all of them are likely earning money by telling you what to do or buy.
Add to this the need to keep every app or piece of software on your device (and the device hardware) up to date with latest versions. It's most important for your internet security software and internet browser, but all makers are constantly updating their software and firmware (hardware that can be reprogrammed) to take account of new security risks.
Remember these tips too:
- Although passwords may be on the way out longer term, they're crucial right now. You need different and complex strings of characters, supported by password managers and use of multi-factor authentication (MFA).
- If you're not sure about an individual or organization you're considering doing business with, talk to others you trust.
- Plan to buy from or invest with reputable companies or thoroughly research organizations you don't know.
- Don't be over-confident. Even security specialists get tricked every day. And millennials fall for scams more often than older folk.
- Never pay by the untraceable methods outlined above. Very few, if any, legitimate individuals or organizations use these.
- Keep tabs on your financial accounts, your credit report and score, and know how to freeze your credit via your bank and the big three reporting agencies.
- Keep your personal info and photos away from prying eyes on social media by using security settings -- and common sense!
- Back up your computer system regularly and your data every day.
- Don't answer robocalls. They're almost all illegal. Use your voicemail or a call blocker to protect you.
- Follow the experts, such as Scambusters and the Federal Trade Commission, to stay abreast of new scam developments. Also, share scam information with others.
You can find more information on all the scams we've outlined here by doing a quick search at Scambusters so you can learn more about how to avoid becoming a scam victim.
Good luck and stay safe in 2022!
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!