Scammers never sleep, not as far as you should be concerned. According to the 2021 report on State of Phishing & Online Fraud, internet fraud activities rose 185% from 2019 to 2020, and it hasn’t stopped since. In fact, we have a new collection of types of internet scams to look out for in 2022.
Phishing – pretending to be a legitimate business or person to trick you into giving away money or sensitive information – continues to dominate the online scams chart. For one, a data breach is a lot easier to carry out by getting credentials via a phishing email.
According to IBM’s data, around 20% of data breaches that companies experience come from compromised credentials, which are more often than not gathered via phishing scams. And they take the longest to identify (250 days on average vs. 212 for other methods). Plus, considering that 44% of breaches expose personal data such as names, emails, and passwords, this can lead to even more breaches.
But to avoid becoming the first link in the breach chain, you have to be conscious of the risks posed by phishing. That’s one of the reasons why Surfshark has written extensively about phishing in 2021 and prepared guides on how to avoid it.
Ransomware is a type of malicious software that locks up your device – or an entire system – to hold it for ransom. And 2021 was such a big year for it, too: from CD Projekt Red in February to Panasonic in November, loads of large companies felt the sting. What’s more, even oil pipelines and farming industries aren’t immune to it.
Overall, US statistics show that the first half of 2021 saw a 61% increase in ransomware attacks over the same period in 2020. Will 2022 be even worse? It’s entirely possible – even as forces are being mustered to strike back at the threat. The US Department of Justice is issuing bounties in the tens of millions for information on ransomware groups such as DarkSide. The sum itself should be an indicator of how serious the threat – and how lucrative a field – ransomware is.
Oh, and it pays to remember that phishing email is still one of the easiest ways for this malware to spread.
#3. Crypto Scams
No matter what you think about crypto (nothing nice, hopefully), 2021 was the year when crypto internet fraud flourished.
From an unauthorized Squid Game token making off with the money (it even had anti-sale measures installed) to sham initial coin offering to Elon Musk impersonators tricking fans into forking over $2 million (to be fair, targeting Musk fans is a tried and true method dating back to 2018), things were wild all over the spectrum.
And then NFTs happened, leading to endless fake celebrity-backed NFTs, Evolved Apes (a slightly uglier version of Bored Apes), and also using phishing to dupe those already invested. That’s aside from NFTs sold using stolen art. Things have gotten so bad that there are government guidelines for spotting crypto scams – and you should be careful as well.
You would hope that getting tricked by an online scam once would be the end of it. However, 2021 shows that scammers have taken to a “recycle and reuse” attitude when it comes to their crimes. Identity Theft Center reports that around a third of their clients that have suffered from identity theft have been scammed more than once.
While some, like AARP, are concerned with seniors who repeatedly fall for scams, the phenomenon of “repeat clickers” has been noticed by cybersecurity and phishing prevention experts. It is unclear what makes people fall for phishing scams repeatedly. ‘
Papers dealing with the subject have considered influences ranging from being overworked (and thus not having the attention span needed to weed out phishy emails) to narcissism. With both phishing and ransomware not going anywhere, the need to look out for repeated scams is at an all-time high.
#5. Gift card scams
Speaking of scams: a successful scam depends not only on tricking the mark (you), but also making away with the money (yours). These days, the most obvious solutions – especially when blatantly obvious extortion like ransomware is concerned – is bitcoin payments. After all, unlike a credit card or bank account, they’re impossible to track.
However, there is a growing trend using a much older method: gift cards. FTC reports that scams using gift cards as payment have been on the uptick, with $148 million being stolen that way in the first nine months of 2021. What does this mean to you? Well, if anyone asks you to pay in gift cards, you are most likely getting scammed, so beware!
#6. Scams targeting Gen Z
Seniors are still, overwhelmingly, the most scammed age demographic. There are many reasons behind it, unfamiliarity with technology being just one of them. But as Gen Z grows and accrues capital – meager as it is – scammers start targeting them as well.
And according to Social Catfish reports, there was a 158% increase in scam victims of the under-20 demographic. While the over-60 demographic still takes the #1 spot by numbers alone (4 times as many victims, more than 10 times the losses), the trend is worrying.
This is largely explained by overconfidence of the generation that grew up online and became too comfortable with giving away personal details to online services and/or on online dating.
#7. Romance fraud
Oh, we’re not talking about someone claiming to be famous on Tinder or using a Photoshopped photo. When it comes to internet fraud of the romantic variety, FTC reports that romance scams cost $304 million in damages in 2020, which was a 50% increase over 2019. We’re all lonely and isolated due to Covid, and scammers know that.
As mentioned before, the likely victims of this can be anyone, both young and old. The scam is usually simple: get you hooked on a dating app (or site), then ask you to send money.
Sometimes, it can be bad enough that the victim becomes an accessory to a crime. So any talk about gift cards or bitcoin should be a warning sign, a red flag big enough to blot out the sun: this is a romance scam.
#8. Covid-19 scams
Hey, the plague’s still here, so the scammers will still use it. As the fight against Covid-19 develops, so too do the scammers, latching onto every new thing to perpetrate internet fraud, from fake cures (probably not horse dewormer this time) to fake anti-Covid pills and home vaccination kits.
Of course, as vaccination passports become more commonplace, so do scammers selling fake passports. We don’t mean actual counterfeiters: these are the people who will scam you about the fact that they’ll sell you a passport. I mean, selling a fake vaccine passport is already illegal, so why not lie about that? What are the victims going to do, complain that their crime was thwarted by another crime? So beware of all sorts of Covid-19 scams.
Now that you’re updated on the newest types of scams, how do you avoid them?
Common precautions to take against all sorts of scams
There’s an infinite variety of scams in the world. Here’s how you might spot the common types:
- Always reread everything: when it comes to emails and internet services, scammers tend to leave typos and punctuation mistakes. Some of it is to weed out scam-aware people early on, the rest might be due to carelessness.
- Check those websites addresses: unless the hackers have hacked an official website, they can’t have the same website address as the real one. Always check the URL for small deviations from the official title. In emails, you can hover your cursor over buttons and hyperlinks to see the address in the lower left corner.
- Don’t trust random warnings: you should already have an antivirus app installed. If it isn’t freaking out, you shouldn’t be either. If you don’t have an antivirus installed, any warning you see online might be pushing fake antivirus software (or a VPN scam). Instead, get one from an official supplier or a trusted website like CNet or Softpedia.
- Beware of good deals: if a deal seems too good to be true when shopping online, then it probably is. If that isn’t enough for you, web search the site’s name to find out more about it, and check reviews on websites like TrustPilot.
- Never give away your sensitive information: as the old saying goes, “we will never ask for your password.” No bank, store, or website will ever need to know your login credentials as they can already do any necessary activities via their service’s backend.
- Remember that big companies won’t call you: nobody is calling you to tell you that your computer has a virus, certainly not Google, Amazon, or Apple. At best, you’d get an email about a security breach.
- Stay frosty with close and personal: confidence frauds rely on shock value and your empathy. We’re not saying not to be empathetic, but to be careful, especially when large sums of money are involved.
- Consider CleanWeb: CleanWeb is a free extra feature of Surfshark VPN. When active, it works in the background to shield you from malware.When it comes to everyday use, CleanWeb blocks ads and known malware from downloading.
And while we’re on the topic, did you know that VPNs can improve passive protection against many types of scams?
Keep your protections up
Internet scams is an art that’s constantly evolving, reinventing itself, and also remixing the old hits. From new takes on romance scams to the enduring humiliations of crypto, this year is not going to be much safer for the unprepared. Having read the article, you’re halfway to mounting an effective defense. So why not get Surfshark VPN for an extra layer of security? It will never be a replacement for being extra careful about what you click and who you submit your personal data to, but as far as passive protection goes, it may be as vital as an antivirus app!