October is here! And while you might think ghosts and goblins are scary, there's nothing spookier than online scams. Whether they're trying to get your money, your personal information, or your best costume idea, hackers, phishers, and scammers are always coming up with fresh new ways to ruin your day.
Luckily for you, Tech.co is on the case! We've scoured the digital world for all the online scams you'll need to watch out for this October.
From Apple account recovery scams to a vehicle history report bamboozle, you'll be prepared for anything and everything these troublesome trolls have to throw at you.
Apple Account Recovery Scam
Let's start with one of the most basic phishing scams out there that is still somehow making the rounds. Pulled directly from the inbox of our managing editor, this classic scam sends you an urgent email with an admittedly confusing subject line. They insist that your Apple ID has been locked because of an “unusual sign in attempt.”
To reset your account, you'll just need to confirm your Apple ID with a bunch of personal information you wouldn't want in the hands of an online scammer. Unfortunately, that's definitely who it's going to.
Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to spot a fake request like this one. For one, that poorly constructed subject line is a dead giveaway. Apple is a lot of things, but prone to spelling errors in important company emails like this one they are not. Also, most tech services like Apple rarely ask you to input your personal information in such a haphazard way, so make sure the request is legitimate.
Always make sure an email address, a hyperlink, or any thing you click on the internet is authenticated before inputting any personal information.
There's nothing worse than bad people taking advantage of a worse situation. Unfortunately, online scams have a tendency to target those in need more than most, leading to something as terrible as a charity scam. With disasters like Hurricane Michael taking a serious toll on people in the US, knowing whether or not a charity is genuinely helping or simply an online scam is more important than ever.
The problem is so bad that the Federal Trade Commission is making a concerted effort to keep people educated through the first International Charity Fraud Awareness Week, going on from October 22 to October 26. They even made a video to get their message across:
On its website, the FTC provides a few helpful tips for avoiding charity scams. For one, always look up an organization before making a donation. Secondly, be sure to check on the charity's rating on sites like Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch and Guide Star. Finally, most charities have to register with state regulators, so verify their status in that regard as well before committing any big amounts.
As with all online scams, the whole point is to get you to click on a malicious link or download a malicious app. Scammers go through a lot of trouble to figure out ways to lure you into their traps, and they're getting more creative everyday.
McAfee found that a lot of phishing scams are being perpetrated via SMS, so much so that the term “SMiShing” was coined by a truly hilarious person. One particular scam texts potential victims about a new voice-messaging app with a link. Once you click the link, you're directed to a website that allows you to download the app onto your smartphone.
Unfortunately, it turns out there is no app, and you just downloaded a serious security issue. According to McAfee, the malware infects your device, giving hackers access to your device ID, brand, model, OS version, mobile carrier, connection type, and public/local IP address.
McAfee's research found that nearly 5,000 devices have been affected in the US since March, with more on the way. So how can you avoid this scam? Don't click on suspicious links, especially when they're texted to you by an unknown number. It may seem obvious, but taking these small steps can be the difference between normality and an afternoon spent buying a new smartphone.
While cryptocurrency's potential to change the world is compelling, it's also becoming the buzzword for anyone trying to make a quick buck. With something as volatile as a digital currency still finding its footing, there are plenty of online scams out there trying to take advantage. And this one really went for it.
This likely online scam from Kalibrate gives victims the chance to get in on the ground floor of an innovative new home blood test, promising to generate “$5 billion in revenue upon launch” and boasting upside potential “in the thousands of per cent.” Along with that, you can participate in their Initial Coin Offering (ICO), which is somehow related to the new device. All you need to do is make a $10,000 investment while giving your personal information. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it obviously is.
When it comes to your online security, a good rule to follow is never invest $10,000 in anything because of a marketing email. Any time large sums of money are concerned, do your research and make sure you aren't throwing your money away. Additionally, if you've got a product that's going to generate $5 billion upon launch, you probably aren't spending your resources on investment requests that are typically headed for spam folders. Steer clear!
Vehicle History Reports Scam
Selling a car is a stressful enough experience as it is. With the overreaching regulations and the large amounts of money being dealt with, it's unfortunately a perfect place for online scams to thrive.
Apparently, the FTC has seen an increase in online scams related to vehicle history reports. Sellers will receive calls or texts from interested buyers that request a vehicle history report from a specific website. After paying $20 with a credit card and providing all the personal information a phishing scam needs, you're left with no buyer and compromised online security.
Unfortunately for your car sellers out there, this online scam is particularly clever. The scammer will often provide a link to a website with a “.vin” domain, giving the appearance of an authentic site, as the vehicle identification number will likely be included in the information. However, this is not the case, as “.vin” is just one of many new domains being provided to interested parties for whatever they see fit – in this case, scamming people online.
The best way to avoid this scam is to always get your vehicle history report from a legitimate source. While they might not be the prettiest when it comes to web design, government sites are almost always available for matters like this. Stick to the basics, and for the one hundredth time, do your research!