The Seven Deadly Sins of Cybercrime Victims

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Global Knowledge

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Article by Jill Liles

Like athletes and chess players, cybercriminals are skilled at identifying their targets’ weak points.

Today’s increasingly online and social world offers a host of techniques for preying on potential victims and their weaknesses.  

Following are seven weaknesses that you need to watch out for to avoid falling prey to these scams — whether they take the form of emails, social networking chats, or phone calls.

  • Lust: Scammers try to tempt users into action by masquerading as an attractive man or woman, particularly on social networks. You should assume that a flirtatious advance from someone you don’t know has a less-romantic purpose behind it.
  • Greed: Like the adage says, “If something is too good to be true, it probably is.” If you receive a free iPod offer, or a percentage of a Nigerian wire transfer, resist the urge to make a deal.
  • Vanity: Scammers often try to convince potential victims that they have been chosen, that they’re winners, or that they are somehow part of a select group on the receiving end of an exclusive offer. As harsh as it may sound, you should assume you’re not that special.
  • Misplaced Trust: In some scams, cybercriminals attempt to convince you that they represent a high-profile brand and therefore can be trusted. Other times, scammers pretend to be a “friend of a friend” so that your trust for your friend extends to this unknown person. Question any message or phone call that plays on a trust relationship.
  • Sloth: Criminals rely on our laziness to ensure that poorly written messages and shortened URLs don’t rouse suspicion. For instance, many users will click on a link in an email from their “bank”, instead of calling the bank or visiting the bank’s website to determine if the email is legitimate.
  • Excess Compassion: In 2009, one of the most successful scams on Facebook involved criminals hijacking users’ accounts, then posting status updates claiming that the account holder was stranded somewhere and needed money. Many kindhearted people fell for this ploy. Other similar scams involve requesting donations to nonexistent nonprofits when a major disaster occurs, such as the earthquake in Haiti. Maintain a high level of skepticism toward these types of messages.
  • Urgency: Hand-in-hand with compassionate pleas are scams that insist on a fast response and tell you to “act now” or “time is running out.” Double-check these requests with the sender or a colleague, and don’t feel pressured to respond immediately.

Excerpted and adapted from the Cisco 2010 Annual Security Report

Cross-posted from Global Knowledge

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