10 Golden Rules to Defeat Scammers

Another Day, Another Scam

It’s an enigma to me that, despite all the constant warnings and advice, so many people still keep falling victim to scammers. Make no bones about it, scamming is a multi-million dollar business, why? Because it’s inexpensive, effective, and lucrative.

It naturally follows then that the most potent means of eradicating scamming would be to make it less effective and less lucrative – and we, the potential victims, have the collective power to make that happen.

Many of you will already be familiar with the information/advice contained in this article, however, most of you will also recognize those among your group of family, friends, and acquaintances, who are likely to be susceptible to scammers and scams. What I’m asking you to do is please pass this information on to those susceptible individuals – send them a link to this article in an email, share it with them on Facebook, whatever, just get them to read this.

Telephone Scams

Be very wary of unsolicited calls in general – and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

Microsoft, your antivirus provider, etc. will NEVER call you on the phone. If in any doubt, ask for a name, hang up and call the company back using their official telephone number.

NEVER provide sensitive information such as your credit card or banking details to unsolicited callers. That worthwhile charity which claims to be calling may well be a scammer. If they are genuine, and you explain your position to them, they will almost always provide an alternative and safe means for payment. If they can’t or won’t, chances are it is a scam. Regardless, always ask the caller to send you written informa­tion so you can make an informed decision without being pressured or rushed into anything over the phone.

NEVER allow unsolicited callers to remotely control your PC. If you’ve been listening so far, you shouldn’t get to this stage. However, on the off chance that a scammer has somehow managed to con his/her way past the early warnings, taking remote control of your PC will almost certainly be their end goal. Do NOT allow this to happen.

Do NOT interact with pre-recorded calls. If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it will be a “robocall” – recorded messages that are trying to sell you something. Hang up the phone immediately. Don’t press any keys to interact with the call. If you respond by pressing any number, it will almost certainly just lead to more robocalls.

Telephone scammers will be insistent and say just about anything to try and convince you to comply. Be firm, no means no, and, when all else fails, even if it goes against the grain, just hang up.

Email (Phishing) Scams

Email scams work in much the same way as telephone scams, preying on our fears and susceptibilities. Phishing emails are just how they sound, fishing for information. Phishing emails will imitate legitimate businesses – such as PayPal and financial institutions – to try and make you believe the source is genuine so you’ll voluntarily give up personal information such as bank and/or credit card details.

Some phishing emails are quite easily identified by their use of poor English and/or bad syntax – valid words but in weird combinations. You can safely assume that these types of emails are scams. However, phishing techniques are growing more sophisticated by the day with many now including what appears to be a genuine logo and/or signature. So we need to be increasingly on the defensive.

Always be very wary of any unsolicited emails from companies. Especially those addressed to “Dear Customer” (or similar generic title) rather than using your real name.

NEVER click on a link included in an unsolicited email from a company or any unknown sender. Many phishing type emails will encourage you to click on a link in order to “confirm”, “verify” or input data for “further processing”.  Or by trying to make you believe that your account has been suspended or hacked. Don’t do it! The bank or financial institution already has all the details it needs and the link will almost certainly lead to a phishing site which is specifically designed to collect this type of sensitive information for nefarious purposes. If in any doubt, call your financial institution on the phone.

NEVER open an attachment included with an unsolicited email from a company or any unknown sender. As with clicking the embedded links mentioned above, this can potentially lead to dire consequences, either via a malicious website or direct malware infection.

NEVER send personal or financial information via email. Never send an email with sensitive information to anyone, period. I was once asked to forward my credit card details via email in order to confirm a booking for an apartment as part of an overseas trip. When I flatly refused to do so and the apartment manager could offer no alternative method of payment, even though it was a brilliant deal, I booked elsewhere. Even if not in response to phishing, unencrypted emails are an open book, similar to a postcard, for anyone to read.

In short  – Be especially wary of emails that:

  • Come from unrecognized senders or unsolicited from a company.
  • Aren’t personalized.
  • Ask you to confirm personal or financial information over the Internet and/or make urgent requests for this information.
  • Try to upset you into acting rashly by threatening you with frightening information or dire consequences.

In fact, if any emails meet any of the above criteria, I would recommend deleting them immediately with no interaction. Better to be safe than sorry. And, as I have said, if in any doubt you can always contact the company, your bank, or financial institution via telephone.

Fake Tech Support/Anti-Malware Scams

We’ve pretty much covered tech support scams via telephone but now we just need to mention another method that fake tech support/anti-malware scanners utilize – online.

Do NOT interact with any ad or popup offering to scan your system for free.  If you do click the “Free Scan” button, all it will likely do is try to frighten you into parting with money by reporting a large number of fictitious issues and then offering to fix them for you… at a price. It may even infect your system itself.

Bottom Line

Lots to consider but it’s all pretty much common sense when you get down to it. You should always be extremely cautious about giving out personal information over the Internet and, if you treat each and every unsolicited phone call and/or email as suspicious, you’re already half way there.


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