What they’re up to – Fall 2019, part I

What they’re up to – Fall 2019, part I

In the digital era, everything evolves quickly. That includes online crimes.

We bring you the latest trends in online crimes, fraud and other online misdeeds so that you can stay ahead of cybercriminals.  As October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we ask that you please share this article and help other people stay informed.

A woman sets up a VPN network on her mobile phone.

Since the winter holiday season is soon to start, we’ll start with travel-related scams.

To start: millennials, beware!

The FTC has released a report that shows that millennials, despite being the most tech-savvy demographic online today, are the ones who lose the most money to online scams. 40% of people aged 20 to 29 lost money to online frauds in the year 2017. That is because this generation grew up online and uses digital services more than any other.

Online ticket scams 1: Facebook

The first series of online ticket scams always seems to start on Facebook. Scammers set up very realistic-looking websites that seems to be those of any of the known airlines; there, they make offers and share information. Their links send clickers to a spoofed site where they will phish people’s login and payment information.

You can always identify legitimate airline (and other company) sites on Facebook by the checkmark on their main page. We show here Southwest Airline’s Official Facebook page, where you can see the mark. That means that Facebook verified that it belongs to the airline.

Southwest Airlines Facebook page.

If you run across a suspect site, please report it immediately to Facebook administrators so they may investigate.

Online ticket scams 2: the share scam

On this evolution coming from the first one, people interested in travel may obtain a free airline ticket for sharing a promotion from one of these fake airline sites. What they don’t know is that the site they’re sharing is a spoof, and by sharing they’re helping scammer run a phishing scam.

You avoid doing this by never sharing these “win a free XX by sharing this post” posts that circulate every day on social media.

Online ticket scams 3: the bait and switch

This is a common theme with online travel agencies and smaller airlines. You see an offer for a great fare, cheaper than any other airlines’. You sign up, providing your personal and payment information. As the process of reserving moves forward, they add a large amount of processing and hidden fees that you don’t see until after you’ve provided your credit card for processing.

To avoid this scam, use Google’s

ITA matrix to find out who is really offering the best airline ticket deals on any trip.And old motel sign.

Other travel scams

With the winter holidays around the corner, there are going to be plenty of scams for lodging on Airbnb, Craigslist, and even spoofs of travel agency sites.

If you get an email for a great deal on a hotel or Airbnb spot, something too good to be true, and especially with an offer that requires you to act right away to secure it? Don’t. It will be a scam.

Personal loan and credit card scams

As a credit union, this latest type of crime really gets us riled up. Because it isn’t hard enough to establish credit and to avoid identity theft these days, the most unscrupulous scammers have now taken to offering fake loans and credit cards with the promise of “no credit check required”.

What scammers are doing is charging victims a fee for a loan or card that doesn’t exist. They prey on people who need quick loans or are in financial difficulties.

You can detect these scams by the following signs:

  • It says no credit check is required.
  • Approval is guaranteed. Keep in mind that -by law- this is impossible.
  • You must act NOW, the offer expires soon; sometimes it even has a timer that counts down, to add to the sense of urgency.
  • There are errors in grammar and/or spelling in the applications.
  • They ask for a processing fee or down payment, often in the form of a gift card.

A laptop shows matrix-like code, in dark room. Hackers, cybercriminals.

Ransomware continues to be the fastest growing type of large-scale online crime, and it’s proving to be successful and very lucrative because of its potential to wreak havoc for huge amounts of victims all at once. In March 2018 the city of Atlanta became the victim of a ransomware attack that affected 6 million people, and it included the city’s government sites, the court systems, public services, and even the Atlanta International Airport –for months!

Ransomware kidnaps a company/organization/city’s online systems or data. The thief holds them hostage until they pay a large sum of money for release. There are ways to fight it, but they aren’t always successful. That’s why some companies and organizations have ended up paying to recover their data and systems.

You can protect yourself by ensuring that your employer maintains adequate and constantly updated security protection on its systems. To read more about ransomware, check out or Tips sheet on the Online Security Center.

And here ends Part One of our report on the latest trends in online crimes. Stay tuned, as in a few days we will be sharing a second report with more crimes to watch out for.

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