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Watch Out for These Scams Targeting Amazon Customers

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Written by Amer Owaida, Security Writer at ESET

Amazon is the largest online marketplace in the world boasting over US$386 billion in revenue in 2020 with 200 million subscribers to its Amazon Prime service just in the United States. And that’s just a fraction of the whole customer base that it serves around the globe year-round. Of course, such a huge customer pool attracts cybercriminals who are looking to make a bank by scamming unsuspecting victims with a variety of tricks that they have in their arsenal of scammery.

Fake order phishing email
As with any major service, Amazon is no stranger to being spoofed or impersonated by enterprising fraudsters who are looking to dupe people out of their personal information or to access credentials to their accounts. The emails you may receive can take on various forms, however, they usually impersonate a common Amazon dispatch email, that regular customers have encountered many times over. For example, you might receive one confirming a purchase that you didn’t make and tries to trick you into clicking on various links that look like contact information to Amazon’s customer service.

These links can then redirect to something looking like the official Amazon login page, however, when you try to sign in you will have divulged your credentials to the scammer. Alternatively, by clicking on the link or attachment in the email you may download a malicious payload to your device that will attempt to download keylogging software that will try to harvest your credentials to any services you use.

Generally speaking, unless the fraudster behind the scam did an immaculate job with the counterfeit email there are several warning signs that will give it away as an attempt at phishing. If the email contains, typos, grammar mistakes, or an attachment it is most assuredly a scam. When checking out a link that you’ve received in an email, by hovering your cursor over it, check whether the address is something.amazon.com where something is one of many valid Amazon subdomains – for example, pay.amazon.com or www.amazon.com. If you suspect that you’re being phished you should contact Amazon directly, since it takes these issues seriously.

Gift card scams
Gift card fraud is another perennial problem that you can encounter. The con-artists may utilize different strategies to dupe their victims, however, the ultimate goal remains the same – trick them into purchasing and sending Amazon gift cards. Popular tactics usually include evoking a sense of urgency or pressure in order to make victims act quickly rather than give deep thought to the contents of the message or phone call.

Victims may receive unsolicited email messages or phone calls about a pressing issue involving their social security numbers or benefits and to resolve it they’ll have to pay a penalty using gift cards. Alternatively, victims may be told that a family member is in trouble and needs financial help. There are multiple scenarios at play where fraudsters can also impersonate Amazon itself, claim to be someone from the management of the victim’s employer, you name it.

However, fortunately, most of these scams can be uncovered quite easily if you keep a cool head. Government officials will never ask you to pay a fine or penalty with a gift card, so you can be 100% sure that if you get such a request it’s a scam. As for the rest of the scenarios, to verify the claims you just need to call your family member to see if they’re in trouble or the person from your company that requested the gift cards. And of course, it goes without saying that you should contact all of the aforementioned people or institutions through the verified official channels.

Payment scams
Payment scams come in many shapes and sizes, and while the form may differ, in the end, the scammers behind them are after only one thing – the contents of your bank account. There are multiple ways that this can occur. One tactic that is often utilized is trying to convince you to pay outside Amazon’s secure platform. The crooks will try to lure you in various ways by offering a discounted price, for example, however, if you relent, the most probable outcome is that you’ll both lose your money and won’t get the product.

And additionally, you won’t be able to lodge a complaint with Amazon since you paid the fraudulent charges outside the confines of their platform. Other flavors of payment scams to watch out for include paying to claim a prize that you’ve supposedly won or to a seller whose identity you can’t verify, and avoid offers that seem too good to be true or that you find suspicious.

The obvious advice, in this case, is to stick to Amazon’s platform for all orders and payments. Even the company itself warns against sending money outside the confines of its platform: “Don’t send money (by cash, wire transfer, Western Union, PayPal, MoneyGram, or other means, including by Amazon Payments) to a seller who claims that Amazon or Amazon Payments will guarantee the transaction, refund your funds if you’re not satisfied with the purchase, or hold your funds in escrow.”

Dodgy phone calls
Sometimes scammers will resort to more “analog” means to try and hoodwink their victims – fake support calls. The content of the calls might vary, however, they often sound like a pre-recorded message impersonating Amazon claiming it has registered something wrong with your account, something that would pique your interest – a fishy purchase, lost package, etc.

According to a warning issued by the United States Federal Trade Commission, the message will then either inform you to press 1 to speak to a customer support agent or give you a number to call back. If you engage in conversation, the scammers will most likely try to wheedle sensitive data out of you like your personal information or your payment data.

The most sensible thing to do, before going into full-blown panic mode, is to check if there is anything suspicious going on by contacting Amazon through the direct channels listed on the support section of their website. The company does acknowledge that in some cases it may make outbound calls but it will never ask customers to reveal any sensitive personal information in order to verify their identity.

In summary
When it comes to online shopping and its related activities the saying “trust but verify” remains as true as ever. To sum it up, most of the scams can be avoided if you remain vigilant, curious, and keep your wits about you. If you receive any unsolicited emails be extra careful to verify their provenance and never divulge personal sensitive information to anyone claiming to be a “customer support representative or agent”.

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Why You Should Use a VPN While Traveling

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According to a survey conducted by NordVPN, 50% of travellers use public Wi-Fi while on the road. However, only 20% of them use a VPN (a virtual private network) to protect themselves while being connected to a public network. “Travelers connect to public Wi-Fi in airports, cafes, parks, and trains. Some even use public computers to print their visa information or flight tickets. A VPN in those cases is crucial if you want to make sure that your vacation will not be ruined by cyber criminals. Nobody wants to lose access to their device or their bank account during a trip to a foreign country,” says Daniel Markuson, a cybersecurity expert at NordVPN.

As International VPN day (August 19th) is just around the corner, Markuson lists all the benefits offered by the service.

Enhanced online security
The main purpose of a VPN is to keep its user’s online connection secure even when they are away from home. Hackers can set up fake hotspots or access unsecured public routers and this way monitor users’ online activity. Once a user is connected, criminals can intercept their internet traffic, infect the device with malware, and steal their victim’s personal information.

When authenticating themselves on public Wi-Fi, users often need to type in their email address or phone number. However, if a user has accidentally connected to a hacker’s hotspot, they could be exposing themselves to real danger.

A VPN hides users’ IP addresses and encrypts their online activity. That means that, even if a user is using a malicious hotspot, the hacker behind it won’t be able to monitor their activity. Therefore, getting a VPN for travelling abroad is essential if you want to stay secure and private online.

Grab the best deals
Depending on the country in which you’re located, the prices for airline tickets, car reservations, and hotels might vary. That’s because businesses know that people in different countries can and will pay higher amounts for certain products and services. If you use a VPN for travel, you can hop between servers in different countries and find the best deals available.

Make the best of additional VPN features
As the industry is evolving, many VPN providers add new features to make their users’ experience even more wholesome. NordVPN, for example, recently added the Meshnet feature that lets travellers connect to other devices directly no matter where in the world they are. This enables users to form a remote connection with their home or office PC from anywhere in the world to share files or for other uses.

However, having said that, please check local laws and regulations about using VPN services on your devices, before you do.

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Social Media Data Leaks Account for 41% of All Records Breached

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Written by Edward G, Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN

Social media is quickly turning into a primary security weak point. A single data breach within one of the major social media networks can result in millions of records being stolen. Within the past few years, we have seen multiple large-scale data breaches involving companies like Facebook and Twitter. Yet, we rarely see the bigger picture.

Luckily, data presented by Atlas VPN gives insight into the scope of the issue. It turns out that 41% of all compromised records in 2021 originated from social media data leaks, which is a significant upsurge compared to 25% in 2020. The data presented is based on the 2022 ForgeRock Consumer Identity Breach Report, which gathered data from various sources, such as 2021 Identity Theft Resource Center, IBM Ponemon, TechCrunch, Forrester Research, as well as UpGuard, and IdentityForce.

A few other factors make social media a security weak point within the current online landscape. First, criminals can prey on business clients by posing as the company in order to obtain credentials. This is becoming especially prevalent since companies increasingly use social networks to communicate with customers.

Second, fraudsters frequently attempt to infiltrate businesses by leveraging mutual connections, which create a false sense of security. Moreover, people who overshare on social media make it simple for thieves to locate personal information that aids in company breaches.

Besides social networks, another major source of leaked information is the retail sector, which accounted for nearly a quarter of all records breached in 2021. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce Retail Indicator Division, e-commerce sales increased by 50% during the pandemic. Retail data breaches increased in frequency and severity during the same period.

While the average cost of a retail breach was $2.01 million in 2020, it increased by 63% to $3.27 million in 2021. Customer credit card, payment information, and personal data were the principal targets of retail data breaches. E-commerce websites and applications sometimes skip security precautions like two-factor authentication (2-FA) as they seek a simple user experience.

When the enormous volumes of personal data that retail websites collect are not adequately protected, it creates the ideal environment for breaches and subsequent fraud. Finally, the healthcare sector is worth mentioning with only 1% of records, yet, at the same time, the information leaked is usually particularly sensitive.

Data compromised from healthcare institutions tend to include name, address, SSN, date of birth, and, in two-thirds of the breaches, actual medical history information. With this information in hand, cybercriminals can blackmail companies or even particular individuals.

To round up the findings, it’s obvious that retail and social media companies should go the extra mile in securing their customer information. In addition, even though healthcare providers leak only a fraction of the data, they should still safeguard their client data with particular care due to the sensitive nature of the information.

Some services offer data breach monitoring tools. Data breach monitors track any data breaches related to your online accounts. It automatically scans leaked databases and informs you of any past or recent breaches where your personal information was exposed.

As always, we must mention the most effective countermeasure against data leaks. It is advised to enable multi-factor authentication on all of your accounts that offer the functionality. This way, even if your credentials are compromised, threat actors will not be able to access your account unless you lose your phone, and it is also found by ill-meaning individuals, which is less than likely.

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Airline and Booking Services Scams Intensify at the Height of the Holiday Season

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Vacation season is well and truly upon us, and travellers around the world are looking for interesting places to go, cheap places to stay and reasonably priced flights. And scammers are here to give them what they need — well, sort of. Kaspersky researchers have observed intensified scamming activities, with numerous phishing pages distributed under the guise of airline and booking services. To help travellers avoid scams, company researchers share some of the most widespread fraud schemes used to lure victims as well as helpful tips on how to plan a safe, scam-free, vacation.

Fake Ticket Aggregators
Most trips start with a plane or train ticket, and travel enthusiasts are often interested in getting their hands on a bargain. Kaspersky experts have seen numerous fake websites claiming to offer users the chance to buy aeroplane tickets at cheaper costs. Such websites are usually well-made phishing pages that mimic famous airline services and air ticket aggregators. Some of these websites even display the details of real flights, with experienced phishers sending search requests to flight aggregators and displaying the information received from them. However, instead of delivering on promised flight tickets they keep your money and use your personal information for malicious purposes (e.g. selling your bank details and identifying information on the dark web).

Fake Lotteries for Discounted Tickets
There are also plenty of fake pages attempting to lure travellers with aeroplane ticket draws, lotteries and gift cards. Users are offered the opportunity to take a small survey and enter their personal details in exchange for a generous discount on a flight ticket. As with many other offers that seem to be too good to be true, such websites end up being phishing sites, collecting victims’ personal information and card details.

On top of this, the survey usually ends with a request to distribute the site among friends to receive the prize. In such cases, cybercriminals are using the victims themselves as a tool for spreading the scam further. A link sent by people you know seems more trustworthy than one received from a stranger. If the user then follows the link and tries to get their prize, they often find they need to pay a commission or fee first. After this money is paid, the cybercriminals disappear – without rewarding the user.

Fake Rentals
Another popular tactic used to scam travellers is fake rental services. One example includes the offer of a luxury two-bedroom apartment close to the centre of a European capital for just €500 a month. Another seemingly appealing offer is for the rental of an entire four-bedroom house with a pool and fireplace for only €1,000 for the whole month. The reviews describe amazing vacations and hospitable hosts. This encourages users to pay for their month-long stay, but in reality, they end up sending their money to fraudsters.

“Planning a vacation is not easy. People can spend weeks, even months, looking for the perfect place to stay and the tickets to get them there. Fraudsters use this to lure users that have grown tired of searching for great deals. After two years of flight restrictions imposed by the pandemic, travelling is back. But so are travel scams – with intensified scamming activity targeting users through fake booking and rental services. Such attacks are totally preventable, which is why we urge users to be sceptical about overly generous offers. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is,” comments Mikhail Sytnik, a security expert at Kaspersky.

To keep yourself protected while planning a vacation, Kaspersky experts recommend:

  1. Carefully look at the address bar before entering any sensitive information, such as your login details and password. If something is wrong with the URL (i.e. spelling, it doesn’t look like the original or it uses some special symbols instead of letters) don’t enter anything on the site. If in doubt, check the certificate of the site by clicking on the lock icon to the left of the URL.
  2. Only book your stay and tickets through the trusted websites of trusted providers. Ideally, type the address of their website manually in the address bar.
  3. Not clicking on links that come from unknown sources (either through e-mails, messaging apps or social networks).
  4. Visiting the business’ official website if you see a giveaway offered in e-mail or on social media by a travel company or an airline to confirm the giveaway exists. You should also carefully check the links the giveaway ad leads you to.
  5. Using a good security solution that can protect you from spam emails and phishing attacks. We recommend Kaspersky Security Cloud.
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