When we mention online scams, most people automatically picture themselves sitting at their computer or laptop, falling for a fraudulent email or phishing scheme. Maybe they imagine opening an infected attachment or accidentally downloading malware from the internet. While it’s true that these types of cyber incidents are common, there are other methods hackers exploit in attempts to take advantage of others. In addition to computers, scammers use two other ways to get personal information and money: phones and chat applications.
Phone and Chat Scams
Think about how much time you spend on your phone. It is equal to or higher than what we spend on computers for most people. When we keep that in mind, it’s clear why scammers target mobile users. Let’s look at how to recognize common scams and how to avoid them.
How Scammers Target Phone and Mobile Devices
Scammers still target home phone lines, but as the number of landlines dwindles, our cellphones have become a focus for scammers and hackers alike. The amount of time we spend answering calls, and messages, checking email, and using the internet, our cell phones make them the ideal target.
Here are some common scams you may encounter from a phone call or text message:
- Calls offering tech help for a problem you aren’t aware of.
- Service from a company you don’t deal with
- Credit repair scams
- Posing as a charity and asking for donations
- Extended car warranties
- Fraudulent messages from CRA or IRS
Recognizing the Telltale Signs of a Scam
Most scams create a sense of urgency, causing people to panic, stress, or act before thinking clearly about their actions. If a call or message urgently asks you for personal information or money, we recommend walking away and taking a break for five minutes. This will allow you to take a breath and analyze the request.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you trust the source? Check the email address or verify the number that was calling.
- If it’s an institution you interact with, call their customer support line by looking up the contact details on their official website. Never use links or numbers shared from the source in question – they might be fake!
- When in doubt, don’t give your personal information to anyone suspicious over email or text.
- If a call sounds suspicious, hang up and block the number when possible.
Online Chat and Text Scams
Text and online messaging are other types of common scams. We can be too trusting to people that know our number assuming that if they have it, it must be because they know us. However, a scammer might pose as your bank, cell phone company, or even an acquaintance. Clone accounts on social media are an effective way for scammers to convince users to share personal data without knowing it.
How to Recognize Chat or Text Scams
Verify the message through a different source. Call the person, email them, or message them on a different app to ensure it’s not a clone account you’re talking to.
If the message asks for personal information or money, verify your friend through another source and directly ask if they are requesting money or personal details from you. It’s better to risk confusing or offending a friend than to give away important data to a stranger.
Be wary of the number displayed. Scammers can display various numbers that look legitimate, local, or unexpected. If the caller has an important message to deliver, they will leave you a message or contact you through another method.
Cybersecurity Specialists in Edmonton
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