If a message pops up on your computer, phone or tablet that warns you that you are facing a serious threat to your cyber security, avoid responding to it without checking further.
It likely is a scam, according to NortonLifeLock, a leader in global cyber security. A typical warning in the pop-up message could be that your PC is at risk. You need to call the number on the screen, which might purport to be that of a large technology company. The chances are that it is not that company, even though it might look authentic.Read More »
Such scams, known as tech-support scams, are so prolific that they constitute the major threat to consumers, particularly at holiday time, the company says. These scams usually show up as a pop-up warning that falsely presents itself as coming from a major technology company.
NortonLifeLock says it blocked more than 12.3 million tech-support web sites between July and September 2021. These scams are likely to become even more widespread during the holiday season, the company adds.
NortonLifeLock says over 13 weeks from July to September it also blocked:
• An average of 9 million threats each day;
• A total of 859 million threats;
• Altogether 14 million phishing attempts; and
• More than 52,000 ransomeware attempts.
Prey on fear and doubt
The reason tech-support scams work is that they exploit your uncertainty, fear, and doubt in order to trick you into fearing that you face a threat, NortonLifeLock says. They usually attempt to frighten you into believing that something really is wrong. To fix the “threat” the con artists say you need to call a number listed on the screen.
Once they are in contact with you they employ a number of techniques in order to force you into making decisions that are against your best interests. Such techniques can range from installing software on your computer that enables them to gain control of your PC to providing them with your credit card number so that they can charge you for their “service” to you.
Tech-support scams have increased during the pandemic for two main reasons, says Darren Shou who heads technology at NorthLifeLock. One is that people are relying more on smartphones, tablets, and computers to handle schedules for working from home and the office, and to manage family activities. The other is that the scams are effective.
The best way to protect yourself against such scams is to be aware of them. Never call a number that appears on a tech-support pop-up, he advises. Instead, you should contact the company directly through their official website to check out the situation and any steps that you should take.
NortonLifeLock predicts that tech-support scams, already prolific, will continue to dominate the list of threats you will face to your cyber security in the holiday season.
Other scams to watch for
Other scams that you are likely to encounter during holiday time, according to NortonLifeLock:
• Gaming scams
Some in-game awards are considered to be valuable and can be traded on marketplaces in the real world. A virtual “party hat” in a game was recently worth about $6,700, for example. New scams are designed to obtain players’ login information in an attempt to steal such valuable items.
• Fraudulent banking sites
Scammers create websites that are a copy of a real bank’s home page to trick users into entering their login details and other information.
Among those targeted in this scam are Citibank customers. They are presented with a website that is a nearly exact copy of the bank’s real home page. The scammers use what is called puny code to register a domain name that looks similar to Citi in the address bar.
• Gift cards are stolen
Gift cards generally have lower security than those found with credit cards. In addition, they are not tied to a person’s name, making them easier to steal.
Attacks on websites that are intended to check the balance on a gift card are aimed at uncovering the numbers of the cards and their personal identification numbers (PINs). By obtaining such information, con artists are able to gain full access to the funds on the gift cards.
Those who buy gift cards are advised to check their value after they purchase them. They also should ensure the cards are unactivated until they buy them. A gift card also should have a longer PIN than four numbers.
• The Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church
New research conducted by Norton Labs shows that hackers, possibly operating out of China, are aiming their sights at the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church.
Researchers investigating one case, for example, uncovered malware to be hidden in files that seemed on the surface to be legitimate papers related to the Vatican. It would infect the devices of those who accessed the documents, however.
In another case, computers in the Vatican were discovered to have malware installed on them.
Although such attacks are generally aimed at large organizations, individuals who have influence through their work, those who belong to special interest groups, or dissidents might also be the victims of such attacks.
Generally users should always remain vigilant against phishing attempts and web pages that are infected, NortonLifeLock advises.