In the age of social media and almost everything from banking to news sites requiring you to set up an online account, it is becoming more and more difficult for the average person to protect themselves from the sheer amount of scams that now exist. One of the biggest internet scamming tactics used today makes use of social engineering. If you aren’t quite sure what social engineering is, and how it can affect you, don’t worry as we’re about to break it all down for you.
Social engineering is a tactic used by scammers to persuade their targets into revealing their personal information such as passwords, social security details, and bank information. Some scammers may even try to get their targets to install malicious software like keyloggers on to your computer so that they can record all your different online information.
Hacking software and hardware is difficult as manufacturers and developers are constantly trying to improve their products to prevent hackers from finding vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, the largest vulnerability to online security is humans’ natural inclination to trust people who genuinely seem like they are trying to help you.
For example, receiving a call from someone who claims to be an IRS agent that has been tasked with helping you resolve an issue with your tax is a very effective means of acquiring your social security information, when in reality, if the IRS does call you regarding an issue they will request you come into one of their regional offices to resolve the issue.
The second human vulnerability that social engineering takes advantage of is our curiosity. Sending out emails that contain links and downloads for things that trigger our curiosity is a great way to trick us into revealing information or downloading software that may contain phishing technology. The most famous of these scams is the “Nigerian Prince,” where people’s curiosity and greed were leveraged to scam them out of their money.
The best form of security comes from simply knowing who to trust. If someone makes contact with you in any way, be it via email or a phone call, don’t rush to give out information. In cases where they ask you to answer a security question or divulge any information, any legitimate institution will allow you to come into a branch to resolve the issue.
Another way of protecting yourself is to tell the person who called you to call you back later. You can then find a legitimate helpline number where you can query any of the information or errors that the scammer may have told you they can resolve.
You can also protect yourself by allowing your email provider, such as Gmail or Outlook, to automatically scan your emails, and mark potential email scams as spam. These clients have the added benefit of using algorithms that search for key phrases, email addresses, or match previously blacklisted attachments or links. Any message that requests you reply with any personal or financial information should be deleted and marked as spam.
Finally, the best way to protect yourself is by simply knowing your facts. Like in the example mentioned earlier, the IRS will never ask you to divulge personal information over the phone. The same thing applies to banks and insurance companies. Simply knowing the correct procedure that these institutions put in place to protect themselves and their clients is the most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones from social engineering scams as well as other internet scamming tactics.