Personalized Scams

Personalized Scams & How Not to Fall for Them

Cybercriminals continue to evolve and develop new creative ways to fool people.

Personalized scams have become more prevalent in the last couple of years. These types of phishing scams are harder to recognize since they seem so authentic. Cybercriminals find or purchase information about millions of people, then use that information to personalize their attacks. The more you know about these scams, the easier it is for you to spot and stop them.

How Do Personalized Scams Work?

You’re probably familiar with the Nigerian Prince scam, where a prince from a faraway land wants to send you a life-changing fortune. All you have to do is give him your bank account information. This type of traditional scam does not require the scammer to know anything about you. Instead, they will create a generic message and send it out to millions of people, hoping someone will fall for it. A generic scam like that sounds too good to be true, making it easy to spot. 

A personalized scam is different because cybercriminals do research first and create a customized message for their intended victim. They do this by finding or purchasing a database of people’s names, passwords, phone numbers, or other details. Unfortunately, personal information is readily available due to previous hacks on popular websites. It is also commonly available on social media sites and publicly available government records. The criminals then target everyone they have information on. Cybercriminals then use social engineering to trick their victim into sending them money. 

How Do I Recognize a Personalized Scam?

It’s natural to feel scared when someone has personal information about you. However, remember that the hacker is lying. The attack is a part of an automated mass-scale campaign, not an attempt to directly target you. It is becoming much easier for cyber criminals today to find or purchase personal information, so expect more personalized scams like these in the future.

Some clues to look for:

  • Whenever you receive a highly urgent email, message, or phone call be very suspicious. If someone is using emotions like fear or urgency, they are trying to rush you into making a mistake.
  • When someone is demanding payment in Bitcoin, gift cards, or other untraceable methods.
  • When you get a suspicious email, search on Google to see if other people have reported similar attacks.

Ultimately, common sense is your best defense. However, it’s always important to use a unique, long password for each of your online accounts. In addition, enable two-step verification whenever possible, especially for online banking and credit card accounts.

How to Protect Yourself Against Attacks

Cybercrime continues to evolve, with new threats surfacing every year. Anyone using the internet should exercise some basic precautions. Here are 4 tips you can use to help protect yourself against the range of cybercrimes out there.

  1. Use Strong Passwords/Passphrases

Don’t repeat your passwords on different sites, and change your passwords regularly. Make them complex, using a combination of at least 10 letters, numbers, and symbols. A password management application can help you to keep your passwords locked down.

2. Keep Software Updated

This is especially important with your operating systems and internet security software. Cybercriminals frequently use known vulnerabilities, or flaws, in your software to gain access to your system. Patching those exploits and flaws as soon as they’re available can make it less likely that you’ll become a cybercrime target.

3. Strengthen Your Home Network

It’s a good idea to start with a strong encryption password as well as a virtual private network. A VPN will encrypt all traffic leaving your devices until it arrives at its destination. If cybercriminals do manage to hack your communication line, they won’t intercept anything but encrypted data. It’s a good idea to use a VPN whenever you use a public Wi-Fi network, whether it’s in a library, café, hotel, or airport.

4. Stay Informed on Major Security Breaches

If you do business with a vendor or have an account on a website that’s been impacted by a security breach, find out what information the hackers accessed and change your password immediately.

Frequent security awareness training is the best way to keep cybersecurity top of line and stay proactive. At GTS, we offer a variety of security solutions and are happy to help identify places where your defenses could be stronger. So give us a call at (904) 606-6011 or email to learn how we can help protect your small business today.


Paul May