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America most common scams and digital threats: what to watch for in 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has given scammers even more opportunities to cheat consumers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given scammers even more opportunities to cheat consumers. Not only do fraudsters prey on your fears surrounding the virus, they take advantage of your financial need and stress. According to the US government’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)…

“Scammers are constantly finding new ways to steal your money. You can protect yourself by knowing what to look out for.”

With more people using the internet than ever before, the digital threats have multiplied. Quite often, these scams are disguised as something good. So it’s smart to employ a healthy amount of suspicion and caution, along with strong passwords, and a good security software solution, like PSafe’s dfndr security solutions.

Emilio Simoni, Research Director at PSafe’s dfndr lab, suggests that becoming familiar with the top threats is a good start for protecting yourself. “Hackers are always busy, always coming up with new ideas to trick users,” Simoni says, “but they’re also heavily reliant on a few standard approaches. That’s why it’s a great idea to know what the most popular scams look like. Odds are, new scams will be variations on these classic themes.”

With Simoni’s advice in mind, we present you with 2021’s Top Digital Threats in the USA:


Phishing and False Promotions

“According to an analysis by our experts,” Simoni observes, “the most popular scams in the USA in 2021 are fake offers / false promotions and phishing scams.”

Between 01/01/2021 until 04/13/2021 PSafe detected and blocked both of these types of scams more than a million times each:

  • False payouts: 1,077,233 blocks
  • Phishing: 1,033,210 blocks

For PSafe the total of blocks in the USA between 01/01/2021 and 04/13/2021 were: 2,843,539 blocks

How these attacks work: Basically, the victim accesses a website that says he is raffling some kind of prize (like smartphones, for example) and inputs requested data. Typically, the victim is then informed they won a prize — but to receive it, the winner is told they  must share the site with other contacts, thereby multiplying the scope of the scam. 

Simoni adds that trust is built by copying seemingly trustworthy sites and sources: Amazon, Ebay, Walmart, Netflix, and similar. 

See below for two typical examples, uncovered by our team:

COVID-19 Scams

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, there are still plenty of fraudulent offers to sell PPE (personal protective equipment) or sell home-testing and contact-tracing kits. Scammers may also pose as a representative of WHO (the World Health Organization) or CDC (Centers for Disease Control) offering to sell you access to special information, services, or medicine.

In 2021, there are even more scams with virus-treatment and vaccine-related messages.  These messages offer new cures and treatment only available from this provider. And vaccine-eligibility messages can be disguised as a trusted source, but link to bogus websites to ask for your personal information. Some criminals will try to gain access to your vaccine card, too.

Some covid scams are delivered through Malware – and dfndr security Pro has a Safe App Installer feature that can identify Malware before you install it on your phone.


Charity Scams

With so many people in need, those who are able, try to help. Fraudsters often use nearly the same language and appeals to steal your money that legitimate charities use to raise funds. However, they may pressure you to give right now,  and they may only accept cash, gift cards, or wire transfers. Their organization may sound familiar, but the scam charity will not usually offer any details about the organization. Another variation is that you “must” donate to be included in a too-good-to-be-true sweepstakes.


Account Takeover / Identity Theft

A perennial, and growing danger: criminals use some of your personal information to pose as you, to gain access to even more of your information. Then they use that access to:

  Make unauthorized transactions, such as making purchases with stolen payment information

  Transfer funds to other accounts

  Change your account details to lock you out and cover their tracks

  Sell access to your account to other fraudsters

  Use stolen credentials to open new accounts. Nearly half of all account fraud involves accounts that are less than 24 hours old.

PSafe’s dfndr security Pro offers identity theft reports to help you become immediately aware if your identity has been hacked and your private info is being used on the web. dfndr security Pro also offers a Privacy Scan that enables you to see which sites and platforms you may visit have suffered data breaches.


IRS and Tax Scams

Criminals pose as IRS (Internal Revenue Service) representatives or tax collection agents to either gain your personal and financial information or obtain a payment… or both. They claim you made a mistake on your tax return — and scare you with an overdue tax bill and penalty payment, if you don’t act promptly. Simoni adds: “Hackers often borrow their authority from other authorities. This is something always to bear in mind when a message seems fishy and it’s coming from a seemingly ‘official’ or authority’ source.”


Investment Scams

The offers may vary, but fraudsters almost always promise enormous amounts of money. They try to coax you into investing by offering high returns, “multiplying your investment quickly and easily” with their supposedly “secret” methods. They may even impersonate reps from actual investment companies. Ponzi and pyramid schemes are additional examples of investment scams.


Interest Rate, Debt Collection & Mortgage Fraud

These scams exploit the financial duress many people are currently feeling. Deceptive interest rate reduction fraud is a relatively new twist on credit card fraud. You are offered a “guaranteed” reduced interest rate on your credit card… in exchange for a fee and your personal information.

Debt collection fraud involves scammers posing as collection agencies demanding you pay them for bogus debts. Mortgage fraud —often aimed at distressed homeowners— includes foreclosure rescue schemes, loan modification schemes, and equity skimming schemes, among others.


Money Mule Scams

Most victims of this type of scam are enticed into a work-from-home job. Or the scammer gains the victim’s trust through social media or online dating sites. The criminal sends the victim money and asks them to send the funds to someone else. The initial check bounces, the bank asks for repayment, and legal trouble can arise.

For older Americans, lottery and prize-winning scams, Medicare and social security scams, celebrity imposters, and online romance scams remain prevalent, as well.

Simoni adds, “With so many of our daily financial activities carried out online due to the pandemic, fraudsters have more chances than ever to take advantage of those who let their guard down. That’s why a good security solution is essential these days.”


How Can You Get PSafe dfndr’s Digital Protection?

dfndr security is a free app that helps you manage the storage, battery life, and wifi security of your digital device, while also offering protection via a url checker, and anti hacker and phishing protections. 

You can also try dfndr security PRO for 3-days, free, and upgrade if you like the protection it provides.

dfndr security Pro offers the following key protections:

Identity Theft Reports — So you know if your online credentials have leaked

Safe App installer — checks for malicious apps before you install them

App Privacy Protection — Offers notifications about issues with apps you’re using; app data breaches, permissions you’ve granted to various apps, and info about where your data may be used.

Anti-Theft Protection — Real-world protection from thieves: with an alarm, remote lock-out, and a picture of the thief.

It’s a full suite of protection for users who recognize that they must take an active role in their own digital security.

 You can download dfndr security here, and start your free trial right away.