What could be more harmless than a little instant messaging chat session? Well, in today’s Internet Age, a lot can happen. Here are the top threats to be aware of when and how to stay safe out there, whether chatting on your desktop, portable computer, or smartphone:
Recognizing the Phishing Scam
The phishing scam was born in email, but has quickly migrated to platforms like Skype, Facebook Messenger, and all the others. Phishing is a scam designed to get you to reveal your private information, which is then used to steal your money or make off with your credit history and identity. Even if you know the person you’re messaging, these are not secure means to transfer sensitive info like your birthday, social security number, credit or debit card numbers, etc. Use a secure means of transfer instead with strong encryption.
Recognizing an Attempt to Hijack Your Computer
Some scammers are posing as tech support and often claim to be from Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google, or other reputable, well-known companies. They are not. None of these companies will IM you, so if you get a message claiming to be from one of these (or another big company, like PayPal or Amazon), block and report them ASAP. They’re attempting to gain control of your computer or mobile device, and with that, they can steal your data and info, infect your computer with malware, and much more nastiness.
Recognizing Catfishing Scams
If you’re lonely, finding a new friend or special someone on instant messaging may seem tempting. But the catfishing scam is becoming mainstream. Catfishing is when someone pretends to be someone else. They create a fake identity (or steal someone else’s online) and strike up a bogus relationship. Then they use that love and trust to scam the victim for money, sensitive information, access to their work systems, and more. Friends and lovers beware.
Recognizing the Threat of Social Engineering
Some people who reach out via instant messaging may seem legit because they know someone you know or have other information about you that no one should know outside your inner circle of family, friends, or coworkers. This is often done via social engineering, where the criminal does some basic background research on you and learns enough to scam their way into your life or your pocketbook. Always verify any relationships before trusting someone who hits you up out of the blue on IM.
How to Protect Yourself When Using IM
What can you do? First, stay smart. Next,read articles like these to be aware of the latest threats making the rounds on chat services. Finally, back up your savvy with strong antivirus and antimalware protection software, like one of the ones available for free at Softonic. Choose from top-rated and award-winning picks like Avast, Microsoft Security Essentials, Norton Antivirus, Kaspersky, 360 Total Security, and many more. With just a little bit of foresight, you can avoid becoming a victim when instant messaging.
Learn more about communicating securely with: Stay Safe: The 5 Best Password Managers!
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