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4 Spooky Cybercrime Stories (and How to Prevent Them From Happening to You)

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It’s that time of year again! On Halloween, everybody loves a good spooky story, but at Payza we hear them all too often, and unfortunately they are real-life scares.

We wanted to share some stories and the tips to keep you safe from online scares.

Ritu and the disappearing bank account: Ritu was a housewife and mother of two living in Hertfordshire, UK. One day, she was surprised to find her bank account balance a little lower than expected. When she checked her recent transactions, she discovered some withdrawals that she didn’t make. The first ones were small, 10 or 20 pounds at a time. Within days the withdrawals grew to hundreds of pounds at a time.

She changed all her passwords and canceled her payment cards, but the unauthorized transfers didn’t stop. She didn’t know what to do- who do you turn to in a situation like this?

Don’t let it happen to you: Your best bet is always to contact your bank or financial institution once you spot a problem. They will be able to reverse any unauthorized transactions and will do their best to prevent future ones. You should also try to find the root of the problem: maybe your email account has been compromised or your computer is infected. Contact your email provider and run a virus scan with the most up-to-date antivirus to track down the source of the problem.

How Sandra’s browser exposed her to danger: Sandra, an HR professional, has been working desk jobs for over 10 years and has never had a problem in all her time behind a computer. Last summer the IT department at her office installed a critical update to her a computer, a patch for a newly discovered vulnerability in Internet Explorer.

Wanting to be sure that her computer at home didn’t have the same vulnerability, she searched online for information about it. She discovered a website that detailed the vulnerability and offered a patch for it, but knowing never to download anything from an untrusted source, she opted out of the download and went to Microsoft’s official site instead.

Unbeknownst to her, the original website she visited was bait for Internet Explorer users who still had the vulnerability. When she clicked “no” to opt out of downloading the patch, the website instead installed a keylogger on her computer, which records everything she types. The next time she logged into her online banking, the keylogger collected the name of her bank, her user ID, her password, the last four digits of her Social Security number and her mother’s maiden name. Several weeks later, her bank account was almost empty.

Don’t let it happen to you: The best way to protect your computer is by keeping your antivirus software and your internet browsers up-to-date. Make sure to install the updates from the source and be extra vigilant on sites you’re not familiar with.

Koby gets more than he bargained for: Koby, a middle school instructor, wanted to sell his car on an online auction site to make a bit of extra cash. Within days of putting up the listing, he found a buyer and received payment without any problems, so he took the listing down. The next time he logged into his account, he noticed the listing was still up, except with one crucial difference: the email address was incorrect.

Koby knew something was ‘phishy’, and he came up with a plan. He emailed the “seller” pretending to be a potential buyer and collected the information for where to send the money. He then gave this information to the FBI, who promptly tracked down the fraudsters and arrested them. They had collected Koby’s login information using a phishing email and reposted his listing in order to fraudulently collect payment from a gullible buyer for a car that wasn’t theirs to sell.

Don’t let it happen to you: Koby was lucky he spotted the signs of a phishing scam and was able to work with authorities to stop it. If you think someone has gotten access to your private information, contact the authorities immediately and give them as much information about the phishers as you can get.

The Koobface Gang: This last story didn’t happen to just one person, it happened to more than 800,000 Facebook users around the world. These people received fake Facebook messages which installed a worm that infected and took over their computers. This worm, known as the Koobface computer virus, allowed a group of five men in St. Petersburg, Russia, to collect $10,000 dollars a day from their victims before the virus was discovered and shut down.

While their tools have been dismantled, nobody in the Koobface Gang has been arrested.

Don’t let it happen to you: Learn the signs of phishing messages – even messages that come from your connections on social networks could be malicious. Hackers will take over accounts and send out spam to all of a person’s connections hoping to land a victim or two.

So next time you think to yourself “I’m sure nothing bad will happen” remember the stories you’ve just heard. Remember how important it is to keep your browser, firewall and anti-virus protection always up to date and to never leave an opening for the criminals.

And, most importantly, never share your personal information on any public page or with any website you don’t trust. Use an online payment platform like Payza to shop or send money online without sharing your financial information. Click here for more information on how Payza can help you stay safe online.