Despite improving antivirus technology, greater global awareness and constantly improving data storage capabilities, cyber scams are more common than ever, and cyber criminals are still finding new and innovative ways to overcome security systems and the personal judgment of their victims.
This is a frightening prospect, because cyber scams can do huge amounts of damage if perpetrators manage to steal your personal details or infiltrate your devices. This is why it has never been more crucial for you to understand the various different cyber threats out there, how they can target you and what you can do to safeguard yourself from them.
Here is what you need to know about the worst cyber scams in 2021:
Phishing scams are common, and difficult to spot
One of the most established attacks you can suffer from is a phishing scam. A phishing scam usually takes the form of a fake email that attempts to trick you into handing over sensitive data.
Phishing scams are particularly galling to fall victim to because they are, on the face of it, remarkably simple tricks. Phishing scammers use the same techniques as old school con artists to pose as a trustworthy person or brand that you are loosely linked to and respect, such as your bank, insurance company or local hospital.
These emails look incredibly realistic, and use emotive topics like your wealth or your health to distract you from what is really taking place. Unfortunately, phishing scams – which you can read more about here – have now evolved to include social media or text messages from fake accounts pretending to be your friends and relatives.
Naturally, this is a particularly easy trick to fall for, so make sure you read what they say carefully for any clues that give away their true identity, and remember that your real friends would never ask you to click a nondescript link or demand money on the spot.
Ransomware takes control of your device
Another form of cyber threat that you should be aware of is ransomware, which does what the name implies by taking over control of your device and holding you ransom, demanding money to give you back control of your device.
This type of cybercrime is particularly distressing if the scammer holding you ransom hacks into your device and threatens to circulate sensitive data, such as photos or messages that you would rather remain private.
Ransomware can usually be picked up via fake links in emails (often using phishing techniques), or by clicking on a fake website or advertisement.
You could receive a fake message from a stranger asking for help
Another common form of cyber scam involves a stranger contacting you out of nowhere, giving you an emotionally charged story about their current life situation and asking you for help – usually in the form of money.
These types of messages (usually sent via email or social media) have been around for as long as the internet itself, and have taken on many different forms over the years. Usually, the scammer poses as an individual you would not immediately suspect, such as an elderly lady, who you would naturally want to help if possible.
However, these are relatively easy to spot, because no real person would reach out to a random stranger asking for your life savings, no matter how worthy the cause seems to be.