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Avoid these 2024 Scams

March 29, 20245 min read

Cybersecurity

Look, we all love the shiny promise of a new year. Fresh starts, new tech toys – it's enough to make you do a celebratory fist pump. But hold on a sec, because while we're busy geeking out over the latest gadgets, cybercriminals are hatching some seriously nasty schemes. Don't get me wrong, the internet's a goldmine for convenience, but it's also a jungle crawling with digital predators.

Fake and Counterfeit Products

Online shopping is booming, and cybercriminals are seizing the opportunity. Remember the fake N95 mask sellers of 2023? Get ready for a new wave of tactics. Today's scammers target trending products – that hot new VR headset everyone's talking about? Fake listings abound. They'll create fake shipping labels, send phony delivery notifications, and do everything to deflect blame when your "cutting-edge meditation lamp" never arrives.

Here's the key: if a deal seems unbelievable, it probably is. Read reviews, stick to reputable retailers, and use a credit card with robust fraud protection. Don't let these digital pirates steal your money and leave you empty-handed.

Pretend Puppies and Other Pet Scams

With a large uptick in people turning to the internet to make purchases, many families in recent months have turned to the internet to adopt a pet into their household. This has led to a fivefold increase in pet-related scams, where con artists most often create websites to advertise animals up for adoption that, in the end, don't exist.

The average consumer loses around $1,000 to these types of scams and pretend puppies are the most common culprit. However, parrots, cats, and other animals can also be involved in these scams, so you should always do your due diligence. 

The pandemic has become a great excuse for not allowing a family to see a pet in person before adoption, and it's also given rise to fraudulent money requests to cover transport cages, shipping costs, and special vaccinations. Pets aren't the only lure, either. A variety of threats have arisen from the pandemic.

Work-from-Home Scams

Ah, the work-from-home dream. Flexible hours, sweatpants as your new work uniform – it's enough to make you want to do a celebratory fist pump.

But reef the sail, sailor, because lurking in the shadows of this digital utopia are cybercriminals just itching to exploit your desire for a comfy home office. Legitimate remote work opportunities exist, but before you start picturing yourself sipping margaritas by the pool while cranking out reports, let's talk about how to sniff out the work-from-home scams and avoid becoming yesterday's news.

While these scams often seek to steal sensitive data through phishing and other tactics, they can also try to leach funds from victims, too.

If you're applying for any job opportunity and you receive a "company check" with instructions to cash it right away, don't fall for it. Scammers will ask for you to cash it and then send back a large portion of it using a wire transfer or gift card. They then tell you to purchase equipment with the remainder, but by the time they've received the money you've sent, the check bounces and you're out of cash. Even if the check seemingly clears, no real employer would ever ask you to go through these steps, and the scammer surely has something up their sleeve.

Government Impersonation Scams

Across North America, one of the most expensive and widespread scams involves impersonation of government officials. These imposters, often posing as representatives of the IRS, Social Security Administration, or Services Canada, love to play on fear. They'll hit you with threats of legal action, hoping to pressure you into divulging personal information or sending them money.

Here's the golden rule: legitimate government agencies will never use scare tactics. They certainly won't ask for your social security number over the phone, and they definitely won't demand immediate payment via gift card (because, seriously, who does that?).

When Doubt Creeps In, Hang Up and Investigate

If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a government official and they start wielding the legal action hammer, don't panic. Hang up. Take a deep breath, and resist the urge to react impulsively. Instead, verify the caller's information directly. Look for the official phone number of the agency they supposedly represent and contact them yourself to inquire about the issue. Never call back the number displayed on your caller ID – that could be a one-way ticket to Scam City.

Protect Yourself Everywhere On The Web

These scams are a masterclass in how cybercriminals adapt their tactics. They exploit our desire for a good job, the joy of a furry friend, and the fear of getting in trouble with the law. The key to staying safe? Active due diligence. Research any job offer thoroughly, never send money upfront for a pet you haven't met in person, and remember, the IRS isn't going to threaten you with jail time over the phone.

One of the most effective ways to fortify your online defenses is to utilize strong, unique passwords for every single account. This significantly reduces the risk of falling victim to data breaches and credential stuffing attacks.

Consider a password manager like TeamPassword – it's like having a personal security detail for all your login information.

TeamPassword is pleasantly intuitive, frustratingly secure (for threat actors), and predictably affordable. Before you get too excited, use TeamPassword's free trial - no strings attached. 

By staying informed, exercising caution, and implementing basic security practices, you can navigate the digital world with confidence, leaving cybercriminals with nothing but frustration and maybe a slightly bruised ego.

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