Five Common Scams (And The Blindspots That Make You Vulnerable)

From a desire to get things done to misplaced confidence in internet security, scammers are thriving from your emotional vulnerabilities.

Ollie Smith 12 May, 2022 | 4:48AM
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Scam illustration

Scams are now unfortunately part of life. Even more, unfortunately, they are becoming very sophisticated. To that end, it’s important to recognize the signs, but also to know your blind spots and how they can be exploited.

The Screen Share

Emboldened by our pandemic-induced reliance on videoconferencing software, scammers have caught on to our familiarity with Zoom, Skype and Teams. They’re also particularly gleeful that older folk are now well-versed in how to use them. Nevertheless, whether you’re young or old, screenshare scams are now putting people at severe risk of financial loss. Typically, the trick begins not with a Zoom but with a phone call from someone who will lull you into trusting them, before inviting you online and harvesting personal information. Once you’ve done it, there’s no going back, so be very careful. Remember: just because it’s Zoom, doesn’t make it safe.

The Parcel Text

I’m very familiar with this one because it happened to me a few weeks ago. The dangerous thing with this scam is how patient the scammer is. You get a text about an undelivered parcel requiring extra postage, which hands the crook your bank details (and a small amount of your money!). Then, often a week or more later, you’ll get the phone call, during which your friendly neighbourhood scammer will pose as a call center assistant. Be wary, because their ability to produce familiar financial information may make you feel safe in their hands.

The PayPal

PayPal scams have been doing the rounds for years now and, for some reason, they’re particularly common on work email servers. If you’re someone who is constantly aiming for “inbox zero", you may be very vulnerable to this scam, because it preys on your desire to get things sorted and off the decks. Thankfully, the solution is simple enough, provided you’re vigilant. Step one: never click the link. Step two: check the email address it has come from. Unfamiliar or slightly misspelled email addresses are a dead giveaway – you just have to stop what you’re doing and check (a recent one was "Paypol"). Always report these kinds of phishes to your IT team, as they may be able to do something about it.

The WhatsApp

A version of the PayPal scam exists on email using WhatsApp’s branding. Users are typically invited to click a link that the email promises will take them to an “unread” message. Younger readers will be well aware that email notifications of WhatsApp activity are never legitimate, as the app is a phone-only software. However, older users may be tempted to click, particularly if the email’s aesthetics are slick. What all users should be wary of, however, is the WhatsApp scam that preys on your fears of the worst. Typically it comes in the form of a very convincingly-written (and emotional) text – ostensibly from a loved one – alerting you to a sticky situation they can only get out of if you send them money. Don’t fall for it. Check with the loved one to confirm they are ok first.  

The Facebook

The proliferation of spam content on Facebook is something that’s driven many users away over the years (this author included) but more nefarious still are the scams that still do the rounds on the company’s messenger app. Sadly, Facebook accounts get “hacked” all the time, so it’s very important to be wary of Facebook messages purporting to be from someone you know. Older users of the site (of which there are many) may be particularly vulnerable to this, particularly if Facebook is a recent novelty. If you’re in doubt about a message's authenticity, check with the supposed sender first to establish if their account is being manipulated. Additionally, be wary of "friend requests" from people you are already connected with. It could be a scammer re-using someone's profile information to get your information.





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Ollie Smith   is editor of Morningstar UK.

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