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How to Protect Yourself from Online Scams

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

Many governments around the world are reporting an alarming spike in online scams during the Covid-19 pandemic. Cyber criminals are taking advantage of the surge in people working, socializing, shopping and learning online. Sextortion’ scams and image-based abuse of intimate videos captured on webcams are on the rise. However there are more common scams that often go unnoticed. Here are 3 of them and tips on how to protect yourself against them.


This is currently the most common scam deployed by cyber criminals.

How does it work: You receive an email, phone call or SMS claiming to be from a reputable source, often your bank or government organization. The objective is to get you to reveal personal and financial information. Often this is achieved by asking you for your PIN and credit card number. They also get you to click or download links and attachments which contain malware that allow the cyber criminal to take control of your devices and access your personal files. The result is financial losses and identity theft.

Protect yourself: Suspect messages that create a sense of urgency be it an emergency, penalty or reward. Do not click on a link or download any attachment from a source you don't recognize and trust. Double check that the sender's name, email address and contact details match with those of the authentic sender. If you're in doubt, verify the communication with the company or government agency directly, using a contact from their official website.

Fake Online Stores

How does it work: Online shopping has surged due to the Covid-19 lockdowns and cyber criminals have started fake online stores to pillage the growing volume of e-shoppers. Apart from paying and not receiving your order, your credit card or bank account can be used for other unauthorized transactions.

Protect yourself: Don't buy from sources you do not trust. Always check and search online for more verifications from other users, reviews and scam reports if you suspect a company, product or offer. Visit the online shop websites directly instead of following links. When paying, ensure your payment is secured through Verified by VISA or Mastercard SecureCode where possible.

Social media

How does it work: Social media is the best platform for cyber criminals to prosper as more people use it as an integral part of their daily lives for staying in touch, entertainment and news. Many identity and financial scams are executed through seemingly innocent gaming, dating and reward apps.

Protect yourself: Verify posts and apps that ask you to provide information about yourself such as the street you grew up, the name of your pet on or your favorite singer. They are often ways to get answers to your security questions. Refrain from posting sensitive information on your social media. Review the security settings of your social media accounts periodically. Never send money to anyone you don't know or haven't verified, even if it's in exchange for a reward.


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