They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but will anything keep scams away, and will we ever be safe from scams for good?
No one likes dealing with scams and security issues, but they seem to stick around for longer than we’d all like. Almost like the worst kind of stubborn stain that just won’t budge, scams stick around, long after you think they should just go.
They are rather a lot like a persistent stain, albeit a stain on life. If you drop a glass of wine on a rug, you have to work hard to remove that persistent stain, spraying and soaking and wiping all to get rid of it and go back to things the way they were.
Scams are a lot like that. A burden for online activity, scammers will persist until someone eventually falls in their trap, and even if you delete the message, try to move on with your life, muscle up with some software, their messages can still go through, leaving a mark on your inbox and threatening you with a subtle reminder of what might be if you clicked. Heaven forbid you do it accidentally.
Frustratingly, scams don’t seem to go anywhere and keep coming back. Why is that, and will we be safe from scams?
Why we’ll keep seeing scams
Scams make scammers money, and even if you don’t click now, there’s a chance you might click in the future. And even if you don’t, someone else will.
They’re also adapting, which is a key part of why some of the oldest scams still work after years of people knowing about them.
“Cybercriminals are constantly innovating and updating their attack techniques,” said Ben Verschaeren, Global Solutions Engineer for Sophos.
“One of the earliest and now most well-known online scams is the ‘Nigerian Prince’s inheritance’ scam,” he said. “This worked once upon a time, but as people caught on to the scam, its success dwindled, so cybercriminals came up with new techniques and stories.”
Those new approaches are part of how people still get fooled, plus the lure of wanting something for nothing, of expecting that something lucrative is waiting just around the corner.
“Scams such as these will never go away, so it’s important people know what to look out for,” he said. “This is especially critical as attackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their ability to impersonate credible companies and individuals.
“Even the most astute and cyber savvy individuals are at risk of being unable to tell the difference.”
The approaches change, but the tips for staying aware may not
But while anyone can fall for a scam, being aware of the things to look for to spot a scam don’t change too much, and that’s partly because scammers can only get away with so much.
When scammers may attempt to fake an email from a large company, they can only go so far. They can’t use an official email, so they’ll fake it, either by filling in a fake email address in the first part of the email where the name goes, or use a domain with similar misspellings, such as using numbers as letters, like a zero for an “o”.
That’s just one way of working out whether an email is legit or not, but there are other consistent approaches that scammers can’t move away from.
“Question the communication. If a person or business is reaching out to you, question if it makes sense,” said Verschaeren.
“[And] don’t click the link,” he said. “Regardless of how legitimate it may seem, avoid clicking links in emails. Instead, visit the organisation’s website and get to the page manually so you can be sure. Alternatively, you can call the organisation that is emailing you to ensure it is in fact legitimate.”
These tips may seem consistent, so much that you’ll see them time and time again, in articles we write and articles others write. They’re consistent, though, because they work, and because if scams aren’t going to stop, and if scammers are going to adapt, they need to become second nature to the messages we receive over both email and SMS, and any other future methods, too.