Cybersecurity and You: Personalized Scams


Image Credit: XKCD

Personalized scams are on the rise and you might be the next target. With the recent release of details for 773 million unique e-mail accounts in January, now more than ever is a time to be vigilant. This blog will give you some tips to help you recognize these attacks and help protect yourself from falling victim to these scams.

Recognizing Scams

Most of us remember the old Nigerian prince scams, with promises of wealth with only an advance payment to some deposed prince. These types of scams are easy to recognize because they are so generalized, but lately a new method is becoming popular. Scammers are buying bits of available personal information on the dark web to personalize their attacks on their intended victims. Armed with old passwords and tidbits of private knowledge, they will attempt to press their perceived advantage to create fear or embarrassment to catch their prey off guard.

Often times, they will attempt to say they caught a person viewing pornographic material and threaten to send it to their loved ones in an attempt at blackmail, while having never had access to the victim’s computer at all. Other times, they will disguise themselves as a trustworthy source. This is often referred spear phishing. They will then use your information for an added veneer of respectability to attempt to make you lower your guard.

Another scam to be wary of this time of year is fake IRS calls and e-mails.  The IRS will always send a paper notification through the mail first before they ever call you. They also have formal procedures in place that mean you never have to pay immediately over the phone. To learn more about tax scams, follow this link to the IRS website.

How to React

The first order of business is you find yourself solicited by these louts is to never panic. They are counting on you to act out of emotion or irrationally. Calmly analyze the contents of what they are saying. Are they asking for payment with an untraceable method like gift cards or crypto currency?  Are they using out of date personal information? Have you actually noticed any out of place behavior on your computer? More often than not, they will try to pressure you as fast as possible to complete the scam. Often times it is just best to mark the e-mail as spam and move on.

You should also refer to our previous posts about passwords to beef up you defense against potential intrusion. Test yourself using the link to Google’s phishing quiz. (Note: you can enter any name or e-mail, even a fake one, to take the quiz.)

Some Selections

Here are some selections from our collection on various cyber topics, enjoy.

Protecting Your Children Online: What You Need to Know About Online Threats to Your Children by Kimberly Ann McCabe

The Dark Side of the Internet: Protecting Yourself and Your Family from Online Criminals by Paul Bocij

Online Danger: How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones from the Evil Side of the Internet by Dr. Eric Cole.

Click Here to Kill Everybody: Security and Survival in a Hyper-Connected World by Bruce Schneier.

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Vulnerable/Updated and Malware/Spyware

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