The second half of 2012 will be a high-profile period, with major sporting and political events such as Euro 2012, the Olympic Games and the presidential elections in the United States. Such events guarantee strong Internet activity and, with it, a flood of malware attacks! Scams will certainly be the main attacks to be wary of.
With more than 2 billion people connected, the Internet has become a favourite playground for scammers. There are thousands of scams in circulation today and it would be difficult to list them all. But they clearly have the same objective: to extort money from their victims by taking advantage of their gullibility.
With major media events coming up around the world, it is likely that scammers will be arousing the curiosity of Internet users in the coming days, starting with 'fake lotteries'. These are spam emails sent to users indicating that they are the lucky winners of a large sum of money or a high-value prize. In order to collect their winnings, users are asked to pay taxes first. Of course, whether they pay or not, they will never receive their prizes. This practice is most popular during major events such as the Euro, the Olympic Games...
Another type of scam, known as 'fraudulent buying', promising discounted tickets for major events, will also flourish on the web. Surfing on classifieds sites such as eBay, Leboncoin or others, users will find cheap tickets, but mistrust is essential in these times of events, as bargains are often pure fraud.
A third type of scam that could be observed is 'fake anti-virus'. At times of major political or sporting events, many Internet users surf the Internet for scores, results and other news. From a simple search on their favourite search engine, it is quite possible for users to click on a link to a malicious website - or to a legitimate website that has been hacked - that displays a pop-up on their screen indicating that their computer is infected (even if they already have an antivirus) and offering to clean it. This fake message typically prompts users to click on the pop-up, allowing the installation of a fake anti-virus without their knowledge and then the installation of Trojans to collect key user data such as passwords, bank details...
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Above, we have presented the main examples of scams that we can expect at major upcoming events. Now, here are some other types of scams, which are also very active:
- Video hoaxes and social networks
In this case, users receive a message from a Facebook friend who claims to have "exclusive" images or "rare" videos, especially after a major event - such as the death of Michael Jackson, the tsunami in Japan in March 2011 or the execution of Osama Bin Laden - that is in the news. These images or videos are often false. By clicking on the link, users are directed to a Facebook page that appears to be legitimate and are invited to copy and paste a link into their browser, which will install malware on the computer and automatically propagate the scam to their contact lists.
- Phishing and identity theft
Users receive an email from their bank and/or Paypal indicating that their account is blocked and, to remedy the situation, they are asked to fill out a form with their banking information. These users should not reply and keep in mind that their bank will never ask them for their bank details by email. If they give their bank details, their accounts could be completely emptied by scammers. This technique, called phishing, is also used to obtain other sensitive information such as social security numbers. This scam can quickly become a major problem that affects many more people than the victim himself: the damage can have a snowball effect when the stolen details are used in a second phase of attacks.
- Nigerian advanced fee fraud
This scam has existed in various forms for centuries. The concept is simple: convince the victims that they will receive a huge amount of money in exchange for little or no effort on their part. After making contact with the victim, the scammer asks for a fictitious fee to release the money. More and more money may be requested later. This type of fraud can sometimes lead to serious financial problems for the victim.
- Love scams
Perpetrators develop a long-distance relationship with designated victims. In most cases, cybercriminals pose as wealthy businessmen working abroad, or as charming women looking for someone to take care of them. Once contact is established, it does not take long before the perpetrator starts asking for money.
All of these types of scams are flourishing on the Web and even sophisticated Internet users can get trapped. So here are some important basic tips to avoid losing personal information or money:
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- Requests for passwords and credit card information should make you suspicious, so double-check before complying.
- Beware of links that direct you either to applications or to external websites.
- Believe the old saying: "If it's too good to be true, it probably is.
- Don't send money to someone you've never met in person.
- If you have not participated in a lottery, you cannot have won!
Anyway, common sense...