How to defend yourself from online scams

The boom of digital services has caused a sharp increase in online scams, real virtual scams more or less sophisticated, which can also cause considerable economic damage depending on the cases. Obviously most operators are serious and reliable, but it is important to know how to defend yourself, to protect your money and sensitive personal data. Here is all you need to know about online scams, to understand how to protect yourself and surf the web safely.

The most common online scams

To avoid online scams it is important to know the most common scams, to become more aware of the risks present on the web. Of course, there are several tools to protect yourself from digital fraud, but it is essential to understand how the 2.0 scammers operate, so as not to fall into the same trap as other users have already fallen into.

The online scam of fake lotteries

A quite common scam concerns the fake online lotteries, a quite frequent and easy ploy to stage. In this case, the scammers send SMS or email indicating a phantom win, usually in an unknown lottery or draw or even in another country. Obviously this is a scam, the purpose of which may be to steal personal data, or to require a small upfront payment to redeem the sum.

Web scams related to online dating

Nowadays more and more dating sites and apps are being used to find a soul mate or simply to arrange a date with another single person. However, not always on the other side of the screen is the person indicated by the profile picture, in fact it is not uncommon that to answer is a real cheater. The risk is to give out confidential information, or send personal photos and videos that can be used for blackmail and extortion of money, a crime punished by Italian laws through the rules on revenge porn.

Online Identity Theft

The increase of online shopping is leading more and more people to buy products and services on the internet, however it may happen to receive a notification of payment for a purchase or an unauthorized loan installment. The event could hide an identity theft, for example by a hacker or a fraudster who bought our data in the dark web. Unfortunately, it is becoming quite a common fraud nowadays, as we put personal information everywhere, making it exposed to cybercrime.

Fake online charity

Many users are inclined to help others, especially during catastrophic events such as earthquakes or pandemics, or to support people suffering from diseases and illnesses who have to face expensive surgeries. In these cases, one should be careful who promotes the fundraisers, as it may happen that behind a charity campaign there is a digital crook, who could exploit a real need situation, or invent the distress entirely, for example using fake photos and fake profiles on social networks.

The phishing scam with fake websites

In recent years, there have been increasing reports about fake websites, often very similar to the original ones, making hundreds of digital users fall into the deception. For example, fake portals of insurance companies, banks, financial platforms for online trading, e-commerce and many other services have been detected. Using graphics close to the original ones, these portals often manage to steal personal data, such as credit card numbers, passwords or bank codes, using this information for illegal online purchases through phishing actions.

Beware of vishing, the scam of scams

The phenomenon known as vishing, being similar to phishing, is in fact the scam of scams, as it is based on a double wrongdoing. First of all, the scammers steal our data, then they exploit this information to deceptively obtain passwords and access codes for payment instruments, usually by having these data dictated over the phone or using automated systems. Alternatively, we may receive a fake email from our bank, warning us of the attempted theft and the need to confirm login credentials to protect the account or payment cards, while the fraudsters take this data and use it to clean out the account or make purchases at our expense.

The dangers of ransomware, real and fake

Ransomware attacks are among the most dangerous, as hackers take your devices hostage and are only willing to release them upon payment of a ransom, usually in Bitcoin. Usually this situation is related to malicious software, unknowingly downloaded while downloading online music or other documents. However, this threat is not always real, in fact the scammer might send an email claiming to be in control of the PC or smartphone, when in fact he is not.

Fake influencer scams online

Influencers are famous people on social networks that we trust, especially when they have millions of followers and very active profiles. However, some fake accounts can be used for online scams, such as inviting users to sign up for a special event, with booking for an often small fee. Or they may organize fake contests, offering considerable prizes to those who register on a site by paying a small registration fee, scams that in a few days see both the alleged influencer and the money disappear.

What to do when you are the victim of an online scam

The best protection against online deception is obviously prevention against scams, trying to avoid ending up in the hands of hackers and digital swindlers. However, it is not always possible, especially when the fraud is very structured and difficult to recognize. In this case it is necessary to report the online scam to the Postal Police, in fact on the official portal is available the Sportello per la sicurezza degli utenti sul web at the address, where it is possible to find a dedicated section for this kind of events.

Clicking on the item Segnalazioni there are several options for the victims of virtual scams. One of them is the online reporting, to bring to the attention of the Authorities situations that require an investigation, to verify if an offence has been committed when you are not 100% sure of the illegality of the operation. Alternatively, you can report an online crime, in case you are sure to have suffered an action not allowed by law, however, as soon as possible you should also report in person at the nearest police station.

Of course, this official act does not guarantee the recovery of money or personal data, indeed, it is often difficult to find the culprits, who in many cases do not even reside in Italy but are abroad. At the same time, even on social networks it is difficult to remove unauthorized material or material that is harmful to one's image. The damages of an online scam can be quite considerable, both economically and from the social point of view, for this reason it is essential to protect yourself by always paying the utmost attention.

How to protect yourself from online scams

In order to avoid falling for web scams, it is necessary to adopt a series of precautions, always maintaining high vigilance when using digital services.

Never provide sensitive data

On the Internet you should never provide your personal data, especially when it comes to sensitive information such as passwords and login credentials. No bank or company ever asks for this data, so when it happens it means it's an online scam.

Use different passwords and change them often

For an average hacker it's not very difficult to steal our passwords, that's why you should always use different codes for each type of service. In this way, if you suffer a theft the attacker will not be able to access all accounts, also for greater protection it is essential to change passwords often.

Never click on suspicious links

The most frequent way for phishing attacks are links that hide viruses and malware, so you should be careful and never click on suspicious links, of which you do not know the exact origin or identity of the author. This is especially true when they are included in emails, text messages, non-authoritative websites and unverified social channels.

Install quality antivirus

Prevention always starts with the protection of connected electronic devices, so it is essential to install quality antivirus on all devices used, from smartphones to laptops. Often free programs are not enough, but it is preferable to buy a really efficient professional antivirus software.

Check the credentials of websites

To unmask fake websites, you should first check the URL, i.e. the domain name of the portal, by searching the internet to check that it is the official platform. Today, for example, websites must have the HTTPS certificate and the indication of the green padlock, otherwise it means that they do not guarantee adequate security standards. In addition, it is necessary to pay attention to details, such as spelling mistakes or the presence of few web pages.

Always activate dual authentication

In order not to suffer password or credit card number theft, or unauthorized access to the email inbox or social profile, it is essential to always use two-factor authentication. Today, this standard is available in all online services, from messaging apps like WhatsApp to Gmail, an added protection that makes it harder to suffer an online phishing scam.