Richard Rattue, MD of Compli-Serve SA
Imagine that some of your hard-earned savings were intended to purchase a car to enjoy in your retirement. You shopped around for months, consulted friends and family for advice, got quotes, went for test drives, weighed up all the different options and finally had your purchase lined up.
Then you get an email saying you need to transfer the money now to secure the vehicle you have so decisively chosen to buy. Because the email is from your son, who has been helping you with the purchase, you think nothing of it and go ahead and make the payment.
A few days later, the dealership asks if you are still interested in buying the car. Your money, however, is nowhere to be seen and the dealership has no record of your payment. You realise your son’s email actually looks a bit suspicious, but you didn’t notice before you made the payment because you weren’t looking, and because he was away at the time you received the mail, you didn’t question it – cell phone signal would make sending an email easier.
Don’t be easy prey
Cybercriminals prey on victims who are likely to act innocently or predictably like this, because they know many people will trust what they see at first glance. They bank on individuals not double-checking credentials or picking up the phone to confirm an email. And just like that, every penny put aside for a purchase that has been months in the making, has vanished for good in an instant, without a trace.
It can happen to anyone and through a previous innocent click when your car search started was when the criminal already started watching you, and noting your digital conversations. Another outcome could’ve been that the car dealership got hacked and personal details of transactions that were almost complete became exposed.
Faking your identity online is too easy if that is your intention, as is getting access when someone has weak protocols in place or doesn’t think before they click.
Being safer online is a no-brainer
Not only can it save you money, but it can also remove you as a target for criminals. Every link and email warrants a second look before you click, and when a large sum of money or anything sensitive is in question, pick up the phone to check before you transact. Imagine if you had picked up the phone to call your son? That car could still have been yours.
We all need to be vigilant, always
It is entirely possible to be scammed without realising it. One day, you may notice an extra profile on your Netflix account that you didn’t load. If you haven’t checked your bank statements in detail, you might’ve missed the small increase per month because you weren’t looking for it. Cybercriminals are always opportunistic from small crimes like free TV access to big crimes like swindling entire sets of savings that could buy new cars or act as deposits on property. Don’t think it won’t happen to you.
Keeping as safe as possible also means keeping an eye on things often and avoiding complacency, always.