To protect yourself from scams, it must first be recognised that anyone can be affected by them. To disregard your information, data or devices as unimportant is incorrect, as scammers target people from any demographic. Age, occupation, income-level and background often plays little role in determining a potential cyber victim. With this in mind, there are many ways we can stay vigilant against these attacks.
To begin with, always ensure that all of your devices, from computers, phones and IoT technology, are secure. Use strong passwords and multi-factor authentication where possible. Apply these techniques to all online accounts and profiles too, making it harder for others to gain access or information about you which may help with their scams. Try to keep your contact information as private as possible, only giving out email addresses and phone numbers to people and companies which you trust, avoiding posting them on social media also.
Stay aware and remain sceptical about people or companies contacting you for personal information. Scams can arrive in the form of emails, calls, texts, or through social media platforms. Often using social engineering, scams tend to play on our emotions and are therefore more likely to be successful. This makes it all the more important that you stay alert to communications you are not expecting. If a communication makes you feel emotional- from fear, worry and embarrassment to panicked or flattered, you must consider the possibility that this could be social engineering at play.
Remember that legitimate companies will never send texts or emails asking for personal or financial information from you. If you are unsure, always call the organisation on a number you trust, to find out more. Similarly, if you receive an email or text with a link which you are suspicious of, avoid clicking on the link. Rather than following the link, go to the source directly through your browser.
Unfortunately, a number of scams will be successful. This is not something which the victim should feel guilty for, and should never feel bad for having ‘fallen’ for a scammer’s tricks. They can often be hard to spot, and the attacker is the only one to blame. However, it is important that you seek help if you feel that you may have been scammed. Where social engineering is used, victims may feel embarrassed or scared to report the issue, though this only feeds into the cycle of attack. The more that criminals are reported, the less these incidents may happen. The victim should act immediately, contacting police or companies that you have accounts with which may have been compromised. By acting quickly, accounts and finances are more likely to be recovered, and organisations can make others aware of the scam.
Staying dubious about communications from unknown sources and remaining aware that scammers can impersonate trusted companies, plus ensuring strong passwords on all accounts will provide substantial protection from scams. Nonetheless, the system is imperfect, therefore if a criminal manages to get through the cracks, report the scam immediately.