Confidence tricks are one of many ways criminals defraud their victims. These scams sometimes require more time and preparation than phishing scams and other common means of committing fraud, but often result in much higher payouts for criminals.
How do Scammers Choose their Targets?
Sometimes scammers choose targets at random, but sometimes they have a more targeted approach. Those who have been scammed in the past are labeled as most gullible by criminals and because of that, they often buy & sell lead lists of people who have been scammed before. Older people are also targets as well as people who share a lot of personal information about themselves online in places like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. If your email account has been compromised in the past, this also makes you a higher target because your email account may have provided scammers with a list of relatives, coworkers, and other contacts.
Clean up your browser and prevent future scams
Common Confidence Trick Scams
The grandparent scam preys on the love that a grandparent has for their grandchild. To carry this out, the fraudster takes the time to learn the names of close relatives from social media posts and obituary listings.Then, they contact a grandparent by phone or email posing as their grandchild. The “grandchild” states that they’re in trouble and need money to fix the situation, but they don’t want their parents to find out because they would be mad. They might claim to have been arrested, in the hospital, or stuck in a foreign country. They add just enough detail about how, what, or where the emergency took place to make it sound plausible, even offering the contact information of an authoritative 3rd party such as a lawyer, doctor, or police officer who can “explain the whole thing”. Once convinced, the grandparent sends money to the fraudster, believing it to be their grandchild and that money can never be recovered.
Romance Scams prey on the human desire to be loved. When in love, we often ignore potential red flags and go against our better judgement. Romance scams typically take place on dating websites or on social media. To carry out this scam, criminals create a phony persona including photos and a backstory. They may even take on the identity of real, trusted people like military personnel, aid workers, or professionals working abroad. They make contact with their victim and express strong emotions in a relatively short period of time. They slowly build the trust of their victim by offering compliments, promises, and even gifts to show their devotion to the relationship. Once a strong bond has been formed, the criminal will make a request for money. This may be under the guise that they need the money to travel to meet their victim in person or they may fabricate an emergency, like legal troubles, passport issues, a medical emergency, or a mugging in the street that requires immediate financial help. At this point, the victim is so smitten and in love that they lack their better judgement and send the requested funds or gifts, believing that they are helping their love interest and securing their future together. You can learn more about Romance Scams in our article Online Dating: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe
Fake Support or Virus Scam
While browsing the web, an alarming popup appears that informs the user that their computer has been infected and that they should immediately download a program or call a phone number to fix the problem. Often these messages include a countdown that causes the user to panic and make a quick decision. When downloading the program to “fix” the problem, the downloaded program turns out to be malware and when calling the phone number for help, the user is asked to provide remote access to an “employee” who turns out to be a cybercriminal who downloads that same malware to the device instead of fixing the “problem” that never truly existed.
How Can I Stay Safe From Confidence Trick Scams?
There are no limits to the ways that criminals take advantage of other people for their own gain. Scams are everywhere and it’s important to take steps to protect yourself. Here are some ways that you can avoid falling victim to confidence trick scams:
Call to Authenticate a Legitimate Looking Email or Popup
If you’re suspicious about an email you received or a popup claiming that there’s a problem, contact the company using the contact information provided on their website to verify its authenticity. If it’s a company you haven’t heard of before or have never done business with, chances are that it’s a scam. Don’t use any links provided in the email to reach the website. Make sure to go to authentic websites, which are usually the first result in a simple Google search.
Look Out for URGENT Messages
Criminals prey on our fears and know that if they urge us to act fast, we’re more likely to compromise our better judgement for fear of what might happen if we don’t take action right away. If something truly urgent has happened, the company you’re doing business with will call you or send a letter in the mail.
Don’t Assume That Someone is Safe Because They’re on a Dating Website
A common misconception is that scammers are pinpointed and removed immediately when creating an account on a dating website. This is false. While many scammers are removed immediately, many accounts don’t show signs of scams right away. Because of this, it often takes a week or more for scammers to be removed.
Disable Remote Access
The default setting should always be disabled. By enabling remote access, it opens the door for hackers and cyber criminals to access your device. Only allow remote access for those you know and trust and NEVER for someone you don’t know who contacted you first as it could be a tech support scam. You can view and edit your remote access settings from your computer’s control panel.
Install Browser Protection
Browser protection is among the cutting edge of online safety technology. Products like Guardio scan each of the websites that you visit and extensions that you add to ensure that they're free of malicious code and scams, including many types of confidence scams. They catch things like phishing pages and keyloggers that often go unnoticed, even to the savviest individuals. When a malicious site or extension is found, these products block the offending website or extension and let you know why. They also alert you when a website that you're visiting is still too new to be trusted. Browser Protection keeps you safe by stopping threats BEFORE they reach your device, instead of afterward like traditional antivirus solutions.