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Cyber Scams to Avoid

Cyber Scams to Avoid

November 16, 2016

Internet scams used to be more obvious, like you could spot the bad guy a mile away and you were probably more amused than afraid. Remember the Nigerian prince who insisted you were due an inheritance, if you’d send in your personal information? Or the email declaring you’d won a giant lottery? All you had to do was send in your bank account numbers, and you’d get your prize.

But today’s scammers have grown up and are decidedly scary. Which is why it’s smart to stay familiar with the latest and not so greatest in cyber scams. How might you get ripped off in the near future? Lots of ways, if you aren’t on guard.

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Be wary of any financial institution that asks you to take a selfie – with your ID. That’s a malware trick that McAfee technicians have discovered in the last few months, according to Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at Intel Security, a Santa Clara, California-based company that makes McAfee computer security software. He says a type of malware (software, used for evil purposes) has surfaced in Hong Kong and Singapore, and attempts to trick computer users into taking a selfie with a personal ID, which obviously would be the worst sort of personal information for a criminal to have.

“I’m in awe every time I see how creative and clever the bad guys are,” Davis says.

And, sure, you might think that this sounds on par with the Nigerian prince and lottery scam (Who would fall for this?), but Davis says this malware, once you’ve managed to download it, will lay dormant and not ask you for financial information until you do some online banking and are probably expecting to be asked some questions. One would like to think that most consumers would stop and reflect –and not pose for a selfie – with their driver’s license (even if they do think their bank is asking them to snap the shot), but it’s easy to imagine that many consumers would answer the more routine questions, like, “What’s your mother’s maiden name?”

Be skeptical of USB sticks. You can use these data storage devices, also called USB flash drives, to back up information but also to download software, a PowerPoint presentation, a computer game, recipes or almost anything you can imagine. And while most USB sticks or flash drives are perfectly safe to use, Davis says that Intel Security’s technicians have been finding ransomware being transmitted through USB sticks.

Ransomware is a type of malware that, once it’s in your computer, will shut everything down. Suddenly you won’t be able to access any of your files until you pay a cash ransom to the hacker who sent you the ransomware. Ransomware is on the rise, industry experts say, affecting not only individuals but school districts, hospitals and businesses. Meanwhile, think about all the times you’ve stuck a USB stick into your computer. Many people use these frequently without second thought.

“I can’t count the number of conferences I’ve been to, where they’re just handing out USB sticks … If you don’t know the history of the USB stick, don’t connect it to your drive,” Davis advises.

Be aware of Google Voice scams. Jayne Hitchcock – whose pen name is J.A. Hitchcock – had this particular scam attempted on her very recently.

Hitchcock, a Maine-based author of the upcoming book, “Cyberbullying & The Wild, Wild Web: What Everyone Needs To Know,” put her phone number on a Craigslist ad she posted in hopes of selling a bunch of books she no longer wanted. Not long after the ad went up, she received a text from a phone number she didn’t recognize. She Googled the number and found nothing bad, so she replied.

“Then I got a call from a 202 Washington, D.C., area code that had a prerecorded female voice saying it was Google Voice and to input the two-digit code I received,” Hitchcock says. “I then got a text from this person telling me to input ’50.'”

That made Hitchcock’s something’s wrong antenna go up, so she wrote back and said to check out her website,; if he wasn’t a scammer, she wrote, she invited him to call her from the local number he was texting from.

“I never heard from him again,” Hitchcock says.

So what was the problem? What would have been so bad if Hitchcock had typed in the two-digit code?

“What they do is steal your phone number, essentially using it as a forwarding number for them to scam other people,” Hitchcock says. It can be such a hassle to get your phone number back that some people don’t even bother and instead cancel it, she adds.

RELATED: How to Outsmart the Newest Cyber Scams

Steer clear of emails with links to Nobody needs to be told that YouTube is a massively popular website, and con artists are leveraging its all-ages appeal, according to Rich Drees, a Miami-based entrepreneur who runs a social media marketing company.

Drees says crooks will sometimes send consumers emails with a link that leads to a YouTube video. Or, rather, it looks like it’s going to lead to a YouTube video.

“Instead, you’re taken to a page that looks exactly like the real thing, but you’re asked to sign on, thus enabling the scammer to hijack your account,” Drees says.

One major hint that you have a problem, Drees says: “Check the address bar carefully when you arrive to ensure that it contains If it contains another word before that, like, it’s not YouTube. “

These cyber tactics are only going to get worse, according to Davis.

“It used to be that proximity mattered,” he says. “If you were a thief, you had to go to the bank, and it was high-risk, low reward. But that’s why cyber crime is so attractive. It isn’t dangerous for the bad guys, and it’s difficult for them to be caught, especially if it’s somebody who lives in another country. It’s a growth market.”

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Original article published on US News.