Cyber Fraud: Some Common Scams and How to Protect Yourself

Published: March 31, 2022

We’re told it’s important to be safe while online. But what is being safe online? What are the things we should watch out for? We’re made to think we’re just a click away from having our bank account drained, our credit card fraudulently charged, or our identity stolen.

It helps to be aware of some of the sneaky ways fraudsters can trick us, so we can be more alert. To help with that, we’ve put together several realistic cyber scam scenarios.   Here's one:

Joyce finds an email from Netflix, warning that her account has been suspended. She wonders how there could be a problem, she just used her debit card linked to the Netflix account earlier that morning when she was at the store.

Joyce clicks the link in the email and is prompted for her Netflix password and payment information.

A few days later, she logs into her bank account to review her recent purchases and notices several charges from places she doesn’t recognize.

Here's another example . .

Joe gets an email from his former co-worker, Gary. The email reads: Hi Joe, hope you are doing well, etc., then goes on to ask if Joe has an Amazon account. Joe thinks this is a weird question, but he has always liked Gary, so he sends an email replying that, yes he does, but also asks why he wants to know.

Almost immediately Gary responds, explaining how he’s been trying to buy a $150 Sephora gift card on Amazon to email to a friend who has been going through a tough patch, and he wanted to cheer her up, but for some reason Amazon won’t let him make the purchase. So, Gary is asking if Joe can make the purchase for him. He would mail Joe a check to pay for it.

Joe thinks it’s out of character for Gary to ask this. He also noticed a few grammatical errors, also unlike Gary. Joe emails Gary again, asking if this is really Gary sending the email, to which Gary replies: yes.

Joe wants to help Gary, but the whole situation is just off. Even if it is actually Gary emailing him, isn’t it inappropriate to ask to borrow money? Joe thinks for a while, then decides to do nothing further.

A few weeks later Joe gets an email from Gary from a different email address: Gary’s email had been hacked, causing him quite a headache, he says, telling Joel to delete his old email address and any emails that came from it.

Joe doesn’t consider himself gullible, yet he knows he narrowly missed being scammed out of $150.

And a final example . . . 

Bob gets a phone call from a computer company he recognizes. The technician says his system has alerted to a problem on Bob’s computer. He asks Bob, Has your computer been slow or freezing on occasion?  To which, Bob answers yes to both. The  technician offers to fix the issues for $100. Bob agrees, then the caller directs Bob to perform a series of functions on his computer. After, Bob’s payment info is collected and the call ends.

Later that week, Bob’s credit card is denied when he tries to pay for his groceries. He calls his credit card company and is told he’s over his credit limit, which can’t be as Bob pays his card off in full every month.

Do you think you could fall for any of these scams? Many people do! It’s important to know that scams are not always easy to detect. Often fraudulent emails, texts, or phone calls appear to be from legitimate companies we know and trust, such as our bank or credit card company, Ebay, PayPal, etc. They may even appear to come from someone we know personally, like a friend, coworker, or relative. Anytime your personal information or money is being asked for, it pays to be skeptical!

For a testament on how far fraudsters will go to scam people, check out this AARP article: “6 Tales of Real-Life Scams”.


In closing, here are some helpful fraud prevention tips:

-Trust your instincts when it comes to emails, texts, websites, etc.  If something seems off, don’t click or respond!

-Never give away your passwords, use simple passwords, or use the same passwords for separate accounts.

-Use two-factor authentication on all your accounts, when possible.

-Salt your security question answers. For example, one of your security questions for your bank account may be: What was your high school mascot? Your answer may be easily accessible to a hacker by simply viewing your Facebook page. So, if your mascot was a hawk, add something extra, like “beak,” to the end of the actual answer to make it harder to hack.

-Keep your antivirus software up to date.

-Reconfigure your spam filter to better detect spam.

-Do not open or respond to emails or texts, or answer phone calls, in which you do not recognize the name or number.

-Be suspicious of emails or texts with spelling errors or strange language usage.

-When receiving an email or text, even if you believe it to be from a legitimate company, do not click any links, or call the listed number, without first verifying that the contact info or link is legit.

-When on public Wi-Fi, don’t access or send any personal information.

-Go over your bank and credit card statements regularly to be alerted to any suspicious activity.

-You are entitled to a free credit report once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Request your copies and look for any signs of fraud.

-Sign up to be alerted by your bank and credit card companies when purchases or withdrawals over a certain amount are made.

-Never carry your social security card with you.

-Keep a copy of everything in your wallet. If it’s lost or stolen, you’ll know exactly what was in there.

-Always shred or burn important documents.


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