It’s fun to be scared by frightening costumes and pranks at Halloween. Heck, who DOESN’T like a good DIY zombie get-up? But one thing that’s definitely NOT fun is being hit by a real-life cybercriminal who is trying to hack into your PC or steal your identity.
After all, ghosts, witches, and haunted houses are one thing. Having your PC turned into a zombie, your email hacked by a cybercriminal, or all the data on your computer held ransom by a cyber con artist – well that’s something altogether different.
So here are 5 Hacker Tricks to watch out for this All Hallows’ Eve, and beyond. And remember – keeping your wits about you is one of the most important ways of ensuring that you stay safe in the face of online threats. If you suspect someone is targeting you with one of the tricks below, proceed with caution.
No way, no how. No bank worth its marble countertops will send clients an email asking them to confirm their information. And don’t be duped if they give you a good reason for doing so either (for example, you’ve received a large sum of money from a deceased distant relative and they need to clarify your details in order to make the deposit, your account is about to be closed, or you’re on your way to winning a shiny new toaster). If you get an email from your bank, don’t take any immediately action. This could be a phishing attempt, and fraudsters may be after your personal information. First call your bank and verify that the email is real. Make sure you find the bank’s phone number on their website and do NOT call any number that appears in the suspicious email.
This trick is an old one, but it shows no signs of going away. To the contrary, more and more people are reporting telephone scams that purport to offer tech support. Many of these scams target senior citizens who tend to be less tech savvy and more likely to fall victim. These scams usually involve a phone call in which someone pretends to offer tech support from a well-known company like Microsoft. No company, by the way, would EVER call someone and tell them they need to fix their PC. This scam has also expanded to include email messages and popups that mislead people into believing they have problems with their PC. Take note: no software company will ever call you to let you know of a problem. They may post notifications on their website or send an email, but they will never call you personally to check on your PC or say that they noticed you are having an issue.
These tactics, by the way, are usually designed to extract either credit card information, cold hard cash (by charging users a fee for supposed tech support they never needed) or to install malware by gaining remote access to your computer. Don’t fall for any of these tricks! If you’re a ZoneAlarm user, tech support is always free, and exclusively available through the support page on our website.
So tell your grandmother and your great-uncle Bob – Never ever respond to phone calls from people offering tech support. Just hang up!
LinkedIn is one of the world’s most trusted websites. It has helped millions of employers and employees connect, and made job networking a whole lot easier. Unfortunately, LinkedIn is also a place where unsavory types have been known to disguise themselves as legitimate contacts who want to offer you a job, make a proposal, discuss some interesting possibilities, etc. Really, they just want to send you spam, or lead you to a site that will inundate you with malware.
Protect yourself by taking a second look at any LinkedIn connection you receive. Does the profile have a photo? Does the photo look authentic? Does the person have other connections? Is everything spelled as it should be (with minor errors allowed for natural human error)? If things look good, the person may very well be authentic, but if things look sketchy, don’t risk it. Ignore the invite and move on to more important tasks. Like updating your profile picture with a shot of you in your Batman costume. (Just kidding. No costumes on LinkedIn, please!)
You may really want a free Wireless Bluetooth Waterproof Shower Speaker, and you may be overjoyed to learn that all you have to do is enter your gmail address login details to get it, but this could be a sophisticated scam. So even if the email looks like it’s from a company you shop at often, it could very well be a fake.
And don’t be tricked if the page has a link to the main ‘website’ where you’ll be offered an amazing deal just for logging in. That could just be another layer in the convoluted phishing trap. Check the URL and make sure it is one you are familiar with. If in doubt, open a new tab, go to the website you’re familiar with, and look for the advertised special. You can also contact the company via email or web support (using the website you’re familiar with, not that sketchy email you got) to confirm that it’s valid. And then think twice anyway – do you REALLY need a Wireless Bluetooth Waterproof Shower Speaker? Won’t that hinder your awesome singing-in-the-shower solos?
You hook up to the WiFi in the local mall (maybe you’re doing some last minute costume shopping), but something looks funny about the network name. Or maybe you see two network names that look really similar “Marie’s Coffee Mug” and “Marie’s Coffee Mug_FREE” and you’re not sure which is the right network. Don’t just guess and hope for the best. Ask someone at the coffee shop for the name of the right network and use that one. The other network could be a sinister hotspot set up by a ghoulish hacker who wants to hijack your communications (while all you want is to do some comparison shopping for costumes while enjoying your Pumpkin Spice Cupcake).
As a person who uses the internet regularly (I mean, you’re reading this online, right?) you know that you need to vigilant all year long in order to protect your online safety. Install an excellent antivirus on your PC, exercise cautions when opening emails, and don’t offer your person information to anyone who asks for it. Halloween is one day of the year when everyone is in disguise, but hackers are out there 365 days of the year, practicing real trickery and looking for their next victim. Make sure it’s not you.