What to do to avoid online scams?


The opportunities and dangers of the digital society

Downloading and opening an attachment, clicking a link received via chat: banal actions that are often just the beginning of a real online scam. We surf the Internet every day to make online purchases, use banking apps, access social media, write emails, send photos, videos and data via chat; all behaviors that expose you to the risk of online fraud.

We live in an increasingly digital world that everyone must learn to understand: physical identity has become digital like credit cards, loyalty cards, bills and currency. If once we had many physical objects, today we have objects that generate data, such as passwords and credentials. Even physical interaction has become digital, taking place via social media, and work is carried out in smart working.

Traditional society has transformed into a digital society and we are also witnessing financial digitalization. We pay more and more with smartphones or wearable devices such as the Apple Watch and we manage our money more and more easily thanks to home banking apps and tools that allow you to save, invest and manage daily expenses with just one click. In short, there is a lot to learn because this change has a lot of potential, but also exposes us to many risks.


From phishing to Ponzi schemes: the most widespread online frauds

Cybercriminals have found new ways, such as emails, text messages, calls, to reach users and scam them. They also use social engineering techniques, based on the manipulation of behaviors. For this reason, understanding which methods are most used by scammers helps to be more aware of the risk of fraud.

Among the most widespread ways to contact users is certainly phishing, an attack technique that has been around since the 1990s. As Intesa San Paolo cybersecurity expert Mauro Marigliano explains in the second episode of the podcast Mica solo Parole, scammers “fish” for data, launching the bait which is precisely the false message of a win, a booking, or a request. They use an email written in such a credible way that it convinces those who read it to give up their sensitive data.

However, when the message is sent via SMS it is called smishing. Think about the messages received from your bank: how can you unmask them? Cybercriminals usually exploit anomalous or urgent situations such as a modification or suspension of the service and the messages received have the aim of confusing and shifting attention to the urgency, so the user does not notice a “badly written” SMS.

Vishing, on the other hand, is a telephone scam in which cybercriminals induce the victim to transfer money or disclose personal, financial or security information, posing as representatives of companies or utilities.

In short, even if the contact methods are many and different, the objective is always the same: steal essential data to commit illicit acts such as stealing money, ruining the user’s reputation and convincing them to invest incorrectly, as in the Ponzi scheme. As told in the show “Watch out for scams” staged by CONSOB, Museum of Saving and FEduF, the name Charles Ponzi is linked to the mother of all financial frauds, the Ponzi scheme. This type of fraud involves offering high-yielding, apparently safe investments, but in reality it is based on using new investors’ money to pay the returns promised to previous ones. To avoid falling victim to a Ponzi scheme or other online financial scams, it is essential to acquire a solid knowledge of how investments work and maintain a critical attitude towards promises of excessive profits.


The rules for surfing online safely

In addition to understanding how cybercriminals operate, it is also useful to know good online security rules. A large percentage of online scams, as explained in the meeting WHO’S AFRAID OF THE NET? Everything we need to know to protect ourselves from online fraud held at World Investor Week, is due to human error. Behaviors such as clicking on links to scam sites, sharing your credentials, using the same passwords on social media and home banking apps, downloading apps from unofficial stores are actions that could be limited with good cybersecurity education.

Here, therefore, are some precautions that are right to take when browsing online:

  • Check the websites that request our data such as passwords, credentials and payment access;
  • Check that data transmission occurs with a secure internet protocol, i.e., see if the padlock is present in the URL bar;
  • Install PC and Android software updates;
  • Do not make purchases when you are connected to a free WI-FI network;
  • Always keep passwords secure and updated;
  • Enable two-factor authentication on everyday apps.

Using your devices responsibly and surfing online while always thinking about protecting your data can really make a difference. Following online safety rules helps you to move carefully and distinguish scam messages from those actually sent by institutions or friends, and to know how to behave so as not to fall victim to online scams.



June 28, 2023