Fortify your finances: A tactical guide to shielding against scams in 2024

Fortify your finances: A tactical guide to shielding against scams in 2024

As our lives grow increasingly more and more digitally dependent, our personal data also becomes more valuable than ever. While the sites you visit, social feeds you follow, messages you send on your computer or tablet might feel private, the truth is that when you’re online, data brokers, trackers, and hackers are all scrambling to collect the many data-trails you leave behind. There are dangerous new financial scams popping up all the time, and if you don’t take steps to protect your privacy, you could find yourself in some real hot water.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. While cybercrime certainly isn’t going anywhere, there are plenty of tools you can use and habits to adopt that can help protect you, your family, or your business from online scams. We’ve put together this guide to help you know what you’re up against, and what you can do to stay safe in 2024.

What’s in a scam?

An online scam is a fraudulent act or operation conducted through the internet, designed to trick individuals or organisations into giving away personal information, money, or access to financial accounts. These scams exploit common digital communication tools, such as emails, social media, websites, and messaging platforms, to reach potential victims.

With cybercrime unfortunately rising in popularity, there are certain forms of scams that have taken off in recent years. It’s good to have an idea of what sort of online behaviours are frequently performed by hackers and scammers, so you know what to avoid when browsing online. These are the most common types of scams that security experts are warning consumers about in 2024:

  • Phishing Scams: These involve fake emails or messages that appear to be from legitimate companies, banks, or government agencies, asking you to provide personal information or login credentials. The goal is to steal your identity or access your accounts.

  • Investment Scams: Offering high returns with little or no risk, these scams lure you into investing in fake opportunities, such as Ponzi schemes, pyramid schemes, or non-existent ventures.

  • Lottery or Sweepstakes Scams: This is where victims receive notifications claiming they’ve won a large sum of money or prizes in a lottery or sweepstakes they never entered, but must pay a fee or provide personal information to claim the winnings.

  • Romance or Lonely Heart Scams: Scammers create fake profiles on dating sites or social media platforms to form relationships with potential victims. Once trust is established, they concoct scenarios requiring financial assistance.

  • Tech Support Scams: Hapless victims are tricked into believing their computer is infected with malware, prompting them to pay for unnecessary tech support services or software.

  • Advance-Fee Scams: These involve requests for upfront payments with promises of receiving large amounts of money later, such as fees for securing a loan, job offers that require payment for training or equipment, or rental schemes.

  • Identity Theft: Scammers use deceptive means to obtain your personal information to commit fraud or theft under your name.

  • Fake Shopping Websites: Scammers create counterfeit websites that look like legitimate online stores offering goods at significantly reduced prices, only to steal your money and personal information.

  • Job Scams: Offering fake job opportunities, these scams may ask for personal information or money to pay for training, background checks, or equipment necessary for the job that doesn’t exist.

  • Charity Scams: These exploit people’s generosity, especially after natural disasters or during holiday seasons. These scams involve soliciting donations for fake charities or causes.

  • Cryptocurrency Scams: These scams trick investors into sending money or digital currency in exchange for nonexistent returns, including fraudulent investment platforms and fake ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings)

  • Ransomware: This type of malware blocks access to a victim’s files or computer system until a ransom is paid, often demanding payment in cryptocurrency. Ransomware is an increasingly popular form of cyberattack in the 2020s.

Identifying a scam

Now that we have some idea of what the most commonly used tactics from scammers are, we can start to keep an eye out for them in our everyday lives. The rise of phishing scams means that you not only have to be weary of unsolicited messages from strangers, but also from friends, family, and organisations that you trust.

As a general rule. it’s important to always be sceptical of anything you read or any link you click when browsing online. But when watching out for scams, it’s good to remember these basic first steps:

  • Watch out for “URGENT!!!” messages: Scammers often use urgency or threats to pressure you into taking immediate action, such as claiming your account will be closed or that you’ll face legal consequences.

  • Check the sender’s email address: Look closely at the sender’s email address. Scammers may use email addresses that resemble legitimate ones but have slight variations or misspellings. A logo is easy to replicate but a legitimate address or URL is not.

  • Look for poor grammar and spelling: Many scams originate from non-English-speaking countries, leading to poorly written messages with grammar and spelling mistakes.

  • Look for HTTPS in the URL: If you find yourself on a suspicious web page, ensure the website has a secure connection by checking for “https://” at the beginning of the URL. However, some phishing sites may use HTTPS, so be cautious.

  • Check for a padlock icon: A legitimate website often displays a padlock icon in the browser’s address bar to indicate a secure connection. While this can be faked, its absence is a red flag.

Protecting yourself from scams

Maintaining total anonymity and connecting to the internet is nearly impossible. No matter what you do, or where you go, there is likely to be some trace of your digital presence. Still, there are things you can do to limit your exposure, and there are some incredibly simple things you can do to bolster your own online security.

  • Never share personal or financial information in response to unsolicited requests, whether they come via email, messages, or phone calls.

  • Create strong, unique passwords for your accounts, enabled with two-factor authentication (2FA).

  • Regularly update your operating system, browsers, and security applications so that they are up-to-date.

  • Always verify the authenticity of websites and emails (use the tips mentioned above in “Identifying A Scam”), especially if they ask for personal information.

  • Utilise secure networks, particularly when handling sensitive transactions

  • Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for an added layer of security. This masks your IP address and makes it difficult to track you.

  • Regularly monitor your bank and online accounts for any signs of unauthorised activity.

  • Install a reputable antivirus and anti-malware software on your devices.

  • Backup your important data regularly, ensuring you don’t lose everything in case of a cyberattack.

By integrating these habits into your daily online interactions, you can significantly minimize the risk of falling prey to scams, keeping your personal and financial information secure.

The Bitdefender solution

Unfortunately, online scams are only becoming more and more common. And while it is crucial to do your own due diligence and use common sense when browsing, having a helping hand can take away a lot of the stress of dealing with the barrage of bad actors online. If you’re in the market for an antivirus or security suite, PCMag recommends Bitdefender Premium Security Plus.

Bitdefender offers protection for up to 10 devices, and offers Anti-Phishing protection, Anti-Fraud protection, Cryptomining protection, Ransomware protection, Digital Identity protection, Safe Online Banking tools and more. You also have unlimited access to Bitdefender’s Premium VPN for extra peace-of-mind when browsing. If you’d like to try one for yourself with minimal risk, Bitdefender offers a 30-day free trial that you can find out more about here.


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