If you think you’re immune to the biggest scams making the rounds on the web, think again. Just this week, the FBI exposed a scam campaign affecting at least 150 different companies — and hackers behind it have already banked more than $15 million from their efforts.
This scam, like many others, is a form of business email compromise. The scammers pretend to be senior executives using Microsoft Office 365 software and trick lower-level employees into sharing critical login data. Tap or click here to see one of these BEC scams in action.
More people than ever are using the web, which means there’s a bigger pool of victims for hackers to go after. If you’re worried about getting hit by one of these nasty scams, fear not — we’ve narrowed down some of the most common tactics and how to stop them. Here are the scams you need to watch out for.
1. Netflix users are in the crosshairs for this email scam
If you have a Netflix account, you’re probably already used to unusual emails claiming to come from Netflix. Netflix scams are becoming increasingly common — especially since active accounts are top sellers on Dark Web marketplaces.
A new version of a familiar Netflix phishing scam is making the rounds. You’ll get an email asking you to update your payment information for your Netflix account. It’s not Netflix — the sender is a crook looking to steal your data.
But look closely and the whole thing falls apart. Not only is spelling and grammar in the email unusual, but the information it asks for includes items like your credit card and Social Security number. Just to be clear: Netflix will never ask for this information by email — even if there is a billing issue.
No matter how realistic these scams seem, you can always beat them if you know what to look for. The next time you get an email from “Netflix,” try to keep these steps in mind:
- Always pay attention to whether or not the email greets you generically (Dear Netflix customer) or personally (with your name). Generic emails mean the sender doesn’t actually know your name.
- Never click any links in an email you’re not 100% sure about.
- Never exchange emails with an unfamiliar sender.
- Never download attachments unless you’re 100% sure of what they are, why they were sent and who sent them. Even if the name or sender is familiar, contact them first to verify if they actually sent it.
- If an email asks you for personal information, financial information or login credentials, just ignore it. Netflix explicitly says that it never asks for this information.
2. Boaters beware of these shady buyers and sellers
As we start to get closer to winter, America’s boaters are docking their vessels and rolling up their sails. It may not be the best time to get out in the water, but it is a good time to buy and sell boats before the next season starts.
Unfortunately, scammers are also aware of the market for boats — and they’re targeting buyers and sellers shopping for boats online.
According to reports from The Outlook, almost all of the common boat buying and selling scams happen through email exchanges. These emails also tend to contain clues that the senders aren’t who they claim to be.
That’s why the Boat Owners Association of the United States is sharing the most common email warning signs to help you catch these scammers in the act:
For boat buyers:
- Watch out for deals that seem too good to be true. Even if the pictures and descriptions look good, they may have been swiped from an existing ad. If the boat is out of state, send a local accredited marine surveyor or a trusted contact to make sure it really exists.
- Watch for email addresses that seem sloppy or unusual. Addresses containing single words and long strings of letters and numbers are often used by scammers.
- If there’s no phone contact information, that’s a red flag. Scammers will go out of their way to avoid talking to you.
- If the seller insists on using a specific escrow or shipping service, that’s a red flag. This goes double if they refuse to accept an alternative.
- If prices and rates change after negotiations, tread cautiously. Scammers will sometimes pull a fast one on you at the last minute to see if you’re desperate.
- Watch out for any sellers who aren’t concerned with the boat’s title or documents. If they don’t seem to care, they probably don’t have a boat in the first place.
Warning signs for boat sellers:
- If an inquiry seems generic and doesn’t talk about the boat you’re selling specifically, it may be one out of thousands of spam messages.
- Keep an eye out for poor grammar, spelling, punctuation and other signs of language barriers. Many scammers target sellers outside of their own country to avoid prosecution.
- If the name the buyer calls you by changes at all during your email exchanges, stop talking to them. They may have gotten their potential victims mixed up.
- If the buyer seems like too easy of a sale, be skeptical. If they’re not interested in seeing the boat or negotiating price, they might only be interested in taking you for a ride.
3. Wheeling and dealing with auto scammers
With COVID-19 still spreading across the U.S., scammers are taking advantage of social distancing to scam car enthusiasts over the web.
Because more people are using the internet to buy and sell cars, scammers don’t even need a real car to trick prospective buyers. All they need are convincing photos and some phony businesses to handle their payments.
Here’s how this scam works: According to the Better Business Bureau, auto scammers will post listings to online car marketplaces with highly competitive prices. If you try to make a purchase, scammers insist you use an escrow service they provide to make your payments and ship the car. Of course, neither the company nor the car actually exists.
Craigslist and eBay are both common places where you’ll run into this kind of scam. But if you post listings that say you’re a prospective buyer, you may even get some phony offers of this kind in your inbox.
What should you do if you’re suspicious of an online auto deal? Here’s what you should pay attention to:
- If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Compare the deal you’re looking at with the most common prices in other listings. If yours is drastically lower, you might be looking at a scam.
- Pay attention to spelling and grammar errors on the part of the seller.
- If prices change after you’ve already made a final offer, treat the listing with suspicion.
- If the seller insists you use their escrow or shipping service and refuses an alternative, stop engaging with the seller. This is the crux of the entire scam.
What should I do if I fell for any of these scams?
If your Social Security number, account information or any official documents like a boat or auto title are given to a scammer, you could be at risk for major losses.
If you managed to fall victim to one of these scams, protecting yourself is your number one priority. Take steps to call your bank and inform them of potential fraud, and consider freezing your credit to prevent unauthorized loans from being taken in your name. Tap or click here to find out how to freeze your credit.
If an account is at risk, like your Netflix account, change your password as soon as possible and make sure to contact the bank or credit card company that issued your payment card associated with the account.
Scams like these may seem complicated, but they’re pretty flimsy if you look at them long enough. At this point in time, the main people falling for these scams are the ones who don’t know what to watch for. Now that you know, you’ll be much better off.