Cyber attacks are on the rise around the world. Few countries are feeling the threat more than South Africa, which faces the third highest number of cyber crimes worldwide losing R2.2-billion annually. With such widespread internet fraud, there’s only so much authorities can do. For that reason, it’s up to internet users to know how to detect scams, report them, and take the right measures to ensure their digital security. Read on to discover all the skills you need to stay safe online.
Fraud Comes in Many Forms
Digital fraud can be found in almost an infinite variety from general scams to hacks, fraud, and much more. Under any guise, fraud causes serious financial and emotional stress. Even if you can easily spot a scam, it’s still your responsibility to report it to the authorities who can manage it properly. By working together, it benefits all internet users and prevents real websites, businesses, and users from suffering.
The Most Common Online Scams
Cybercriminals are constantly evolving. They create new techniques that allow them to gain access to your money or data. Oddly enough, many people would never hold their wallet open on the street, yet they tend to give out their data on the web. It doesn’t take much, sometimes just addresses and birthdates, for a hacker to steal your identity.
What’s worse is that even though it’s never been easier to warn others about scams, most people are too embarrassed to admit they have been duped. As a result, scams are not reported as often as they should be. Scams come in all varieties, but they often share many overlapping features that make them recognizable. Here are some of the top examples you need to know:
The Nigerian Prince Scam
We’ve all heard of this one. You’ve received an email from a Nigerian person claiming to be a wealthy prince or royalty—which should be a red flag since Nigeria has a presidential system. The email will ask for assistance so they can transfer their inheritance out of the country often in the name of donating to some worthy cause.
They will then offer a percentage of the fortune like 10% because they need help covering “legal fees” and other bogus claims. Your assistance is key for all of this to go successfully. The scam preys on desperate people looking for money themselves and dates back nearly 100 years.
Although the Nigerian Prince has become widely recognized, there are still many variants. Instead of royalty, it may be a politician or another prominent figure. The key thing is to beware of strangers asking for your assistance through email no matter how good their story is.
Acceptance for a Loan or Credit Card
These scams are a little more nuanced because they resemble the same techniques real banks and loan companies use. For example, they may say you are pre-approved for a large loan, you need to pay a small fee to access the credit network. The fee will then be deducted from your credit balance. It’s very similar to an annual rate on credit cards.
However, once you pay the fee, you’ll never hear from the scammer again. The key thing is to do your homework. Check to see if it is a real financial institution. Most people report scams quickly. Sometimes all you need to do is a Google search to see if the company is real or not.
Phishing is the most common online scam. It tricks even the most vigilant internet users. These are the savviest hackers. Instead of straight up asking for money, these scams try to convince you to give up little, seemingly harmless bits of information.
It begins with birth dates and addresses, then may work up to South African ID numbers, credit card details, and other important information. Worse, they often do a good job of pretending they are from legitimate organizations. For example, the person may pretend to be a manager from Capitec Bank just looking to verify your account information.
One quick way to check this is to check your URL bar. If they want you to visit a site with an “http:” address instead of “https:,” that’s a sign. Likewise, real financial and other account managers use email signatures, headings, and other items that set them apart from their phony counterparts.
Learn How to Protect Yourself Online
These three scams represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to online fraud. For this reason, it’s up to users to take security and privacy into their own hands. The first thing all internet users need to do is use a VPN. A VPN or virtual private network secures your internet connection with the latest technology, preventing hackers from gaining access to your computer or digital device. A VPN in South Africa (a reliable example) and anywhere else in the world offers broad protection against a wide variety of threats.
From here, internet users need to practice digital hygiene techniques such as knowing how to recognize suspicious emails and websites. Finally, they need to report such scams to the proper authorities, including email provider, Google, and the South African Internet Service Providers’ Association. If you do so, you’ll contribute to a safer internet for not just you, but everyone.