How to Stay Safe in the Age of Digital Scams

October 23, 2023

How to Stay Safe in the Age of Digital Scams

The digital age has arrived and is here to stay. These days, most of our communication and transactions happen online. It certainly is convenient to be able to take care of your finances and other day to day business from behind a screen on your couch, but when modes of communication and commerce change, the scams get updated right along with them. Many current scams target and exploit people online. Some of the most common digital scams are detailed below.

Phishing and Spoofing

Scammers use email and online messaging services to trick victims into revealing personal data, login credentials, and other sensitive information. These messages often imitate legitimate entities, urging you to click on a link or download an attachment, leading to data theft or malware installation.

What It Looks Like

Imagine you receive an email from your bank. Or at least it looks that way. The email subject reads, “Urgent Action Required: Verify Your Account Details.” The email has the bank’s logo, the same design you’re used to seeing, and even links to what seems like the bank’s official website. At first glance, everything looks legit. The body of the email tells of a recent security breach, and states that all customers must verify their account details to make sure their funds stay safe.

You’re then prompted to click a link that redirects you to a website with what looks like your bank’s login page. Once there, you’re asked to enter your username, password, and even answers to security questions and other personal details.

What you don’t realize is that the website is a fraudulent replica designed by scammers. After you give your details, the scammers will capture the information and then be able to access your real bank account. They can then steal your money, make unauthorized transactions, or even sell your login credentials to other criminals.

Luckily, something made you hesitate before giving any information on the fake login page, and you now notice the details that clue you in that the site is a scam. You take a deep breath. Crisis averted.

How to Stay Safe

This type of phishing email works because it preys on your fear and sense of urgency. The
scammers hope you will act without taking the time to verify whether the request is legitimate.
Your best bet is to:

  • Slow down and take a minute to assess the situation.
  • Double-check the email source to see if it matches the other messages you get from
    your bank. Be wary, this can be spoofed too.
  • Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from an unfamiliar or suspicious
  • Still in doubt? Find your bank’s contact information from a trusted source, like a bank
    statement or the bank’s official website, and call customer service to ask whether the
    email you received is legitimate.

Payday Loan Scam

This is another ploy where scammers try to get you to apply for a fake loan, which can then lead to unauthorized deductions from your account or data theft.

What It Looks Like

Imagine Sarah, a single mother of two, who is going through financial difficulties and searching online for quick ways to borrow money to pay her overdue rent. She comes across an advertisement that promises instant approval for a payday loan with minimal interest rates. The ad is enticing, claiming “No Credit Check Needed!” and “Funds Deposited Within 24 Hours!”

Desperate and hopeful, Sarah clicks on the ad, which leads her to a professional-looking website. The site requires her to fill out a detailed application form, asking for personal details, including her full name, home address, employer information, and bank account details. Trusting the legitimacy of the website based on its polished appearance and because she is in dire need of a quick solution to her financial crunch, Sarah completes the application.

Within hours, she receives an email confirmation stating that her loan application was approved, but that she needs to pay a small “processing fee” upfront. Sarah, eager to ease the stress of being late on rent, pays the fee using her credit card.

Then days go by with no deposit in her bank account. Sarah is getting suspicious, so she tries contacting the loan company using the details on their website. All her calls and emails go unanswered. A week later, she notices several unauthorized deductions from her bank account and, with that sinking feeling of not knowing what she will do now, realizes she’s fallen for a payday loan scam. Not only did she lose the money she paid as a “processing fee,” but the scammers also had access to her bank details and made fraudulent transactions that cost her even more.

How to Stay Safe

This scam preyed on Sarah’s vulnerable financial situation. For any loan offer and especially those found online:

  • Research the Lender: Before engaging with a payday loan company, conduct thorough research. Check for reviews, complaints, and any reports regarding scams associated with the lender.
  • Verify Contact Information: Ensure that the lender has legitimate contact information available, including a physical address, phone number, and email.
  • Avoid Upfront Fees: Be wary of lenders who ask for fees upfront before granting you a loan. Legitimate lenders will incorporate their fees into the repayment plan.
  • Check for Licensing: Ensure that the payday lender is licensed to operate in your state. Most states require payday lenders to be licensed.
  • Secure Websites: Only share personal or financial details on secure websites. The URL should begin with “https://” and display a lock symbol.
  • Beware of Overpromises: Be skeptical of lenders who guarantee approval regardless of your credit history.

Romance Scams

Scammers set up fake profiles on dating sites or social media to lure unsuspecting people into sham romantic relationships. Once trust is established, they ask for money or personal details, and pressure the victim by exploiting their emotional bond.

What It Looks Like

Think of Liam, a widower in his early 60s, who is just re-entering the world of dating. He set up an online dating profile in the hopes of finding a companion. After a few weeks on a popular dating site, he connected with “Elena,” a beautiful woman who said she was a nurse from Ukraine. Elena’s profile was filled with photos, stories of her life, and shared interests that resonated with Liam.

As weeks became months, their online relationship grew deeper. They exchanged messages every day, personal details of their lives, and even had video calls where Elena would express her care and affection for Liam. Even though they had never met in person, Liam truly believed he had found love again.

One day, Elena shared a heartbreaking story with Liam. She mentioned her mother’s sudden illness and the expensive medical treatments she needed. Elena appeared distraught and said she felt helpless under the growing stress of the medical bills that were piling up. Liam was sympathetic and genuinely concerned. He offered financial help. Elena played it well. She was initially hesitant but eventually gave Liam her bank details so he could transfer the funds.

After the transfer, Elena’s communication cooled off, with connectivity issues or being too busy at the hospital used as frequent excuses. It wasn’t long before her profile disappeared from the dating site and Liam stopped hearing from her altogether.

Liam was heartbroken and angry as he realized he had fallen for a romance scam. He not only lost a lot of money, but he also had to deal with the emotional trauma of being betrayed by someone he had grown to trust.

How to Stay Safe

Romance scams highlight the importance of taking extreme caution with online relationships,
especially when money or personal details are involved. Here are some ways to avoid
heartbreak or other loss:

  • Meet In Person: Whenever possible, prioritize face-to-face meetings in safe, public
  • Check for Consistency: Pay attention to inconsistencies in stories, backgrounds, or life
    events shared by the person.
  • Be Skeptical of Rushed Emotional Intimacy: Scammers often try to create an
    emotional bond quickly. Be cautious if someone declares their love or strong feelings for
    you shortly after meeting online.
  • Guard Your Personal Details: Avoid sharing personal details online, especially with
    strangers or new online acquaintances. Even with people you think you know, be
    cautious when interacting online – scammers might impersonate someone you trust.
  • Don’t Send or Receive Money: Never send money, gift cards, or other financial
    resources to someone you’ve met online. Also, be wary if someone asks you to receive
    and forward any funds on their behalf.

Other Scams

Other common cybercrimes involve hijacking and malware. Hijacking is when criminals gain unauthorized access to a user’s online accounts or devices. Once inside, they can carry out malicious activities such as data theft or make ransom demands.

Likewise, malware is malicious software that is installed on a person’s device without their knowledge, often through deceptive links or downloads. Once installed, the software can be used to steal data or monitor activities.

Similar to phishing, links that lead to hijacking or malware installation are often contained within official-looking emails made to look like they came from trusted senders. They often appear to be an alert of an alarming event, such as a security breach, to get you into reaction mode and miss the red flags you might otherwise notice.


Digital transactions are incredibly convenient, but they have a downside as well. Simply by being online, we are exposed to a variety of online scams. From phishing and spoofing emails to payday loan scams to romance scams – the threats are many and the scammers are always looking for innovative ways to break through our defenses. To stay safe in the digital age, be vigilant, verify information, and protect your personal details.

Remember to slow down and assess the situation before taking action. Double-check the authenticity of emails and websites and avoid clicking on suspicious links or sharing personal information. When dealing with financial matters or online relationships, skepticism can be your ally. Always prioritize face-to-face meetings, watch for inconsistencies, and guard your personal details. Never send money to someone you’ve met only online and be cautious of overpromises or unusual requests.

To avoid any type of scam, the same basic principles apply. Awareness and caution can significantly reduce the risk of becoming a victim. Regularly updating your cybersecurity software, being skeptical of unsolicited communications, and verification of anything or anyone that seems suspicious are among the best practices for staying safe online

Our iLOCK360 service delivers top-of-the-line credit monitoring and identity theft protection. If you’re ready to secure your finances, improve your credit, or prepare for a major purchase, iLOCK360 will keep you safe and informed. Click here to learn more about iLOCK360.

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