A report recently surfaced about Google intercepting 18 million SARS-COVID-19 scams and phishing emails, in addition to the 240 million scams that it intercepts on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this is a sign of the times. The invasive nature of these pharming and phishing attacks is a grave danger to all of us. Equally troubling is the alacrity with which it is all taking place.
As more users turn to the Internet of things for education, banking and finance, medical, cultural, and recreation so the focus shifts to Internet safety and security. Matters have been exacerbated by current geopolitical considerations, as bad actors seek to ply their trade against unsuspecting victims. Fortunately, there are ways to detect safe browsing on desktop and mobile devices, and users are wising up to the advances of these nefarious scams.
Foremost among the biggest scams taking place are phishing attacks via email. Con artists ply their trade by appealing to the desperation in every one of us. They seek to provide seemingly well-intentioned solutions to the financial and medical crises that have gripped the global community. Unfortunately, these con artists and the global networks across which they operate only sow the seeds of destruction for an unwitting audience.
Sharks Preying on the Unsuspecting Public
Seemingly authentic emails are being sent out en masse, with ‘click here’ to claim your benefits, bonuses, legacy, and so forth. These scams certainly don’t work on everyone, but the small percentage of users that do acquiesce end up in grave danger of identity theft, and financial ruin. Scam artists use rudimentary and sophisticated tools, techniques, and methodology to mimic authentic government agencies, commercial banking operations, and even friends and relatives.
These entrapment systems are designed to get users to unwittingly enter sensitive personal information such as ID documents, passports, bank details, name and address information. This presents grave risks to society at large. According to a report published on Business Insider, 10% of US adults will fall victim fraudulent activity every year. This alarming statistic paints a grim picture, and validates the reality that fraudsters are feeling more emboldened with every passing year.
In 2018, 34% of adults fell victim to fraud in the US as indicated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Median losses between 2015-2018 amounted to $600 per respondent – a shocking figure. Consider that multiple reports have found that the average US taxpayer does not even have $500 in their savings account for an emergency. The most common ways of falling victim to online fraud are by email, clickable links on social media, or websites visited. It’s increasingly difficult for a layperson to ascertain whether a website is truly safe or not without help.
Making the Switch to Safe Browsing on PC, Mac and Mobile
One such technique that is rooting out nefarious activity on the Internet is known as the My Web of Trust. This ‘safe browsing’ movement is a crowd-based system that accurately assesses the safety of websites by a large and growing community of users. My Web of Trust has come to be relied upon by a network comprising 140 million users globally who evaluate the credibility of websites a.k.a. the trust factor for other users within the community.
Every website that is rated – and 90 million websites have been rated on the app ready – is given a score between 1 star – 5 stars. Any star rating over 3 is considered ‘relatively safe’, and any website with less than 3 stars is considered a risk. Naturally, 4 and 5 star websites are safe to browse. This powerful system can be uploaded and installed as a browser-based add-on for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, or Opera, and it can be downloaded as an app for Android smartphones and tablets, as well as iOS devices through the App Store.
The proof of the pudding is in the usage. With WoT, users are assured of a safe, reliable, and trustworthy browsing experience. The iOS app is 42.8 MB to download and install, and works on all versions of iOS 10.0 and later. It is compatible with iPod touch, iPad and iPhone devices. The app is a bulwark against bad actors on the Internet. It identifies risky websites and allows users to access the safety ratings/reviews of those websites in the database. This is an added protection mechanism courtesy of a powerful algorithm that creates safety scores for every website on the database.
A Cocktail of Powerful Resources to Combat the Scam Scourge
Among the many fraudulent activities taking place at this time are tax collection scams, debt collection scams, phishing scams from people claiming to be confidants and family members, lottery and sweepstakes winning scams, and fake checks that are being issued to unsuspecting users and then requesting fractional paybacks thereof. Websites that operate under the radar such as movie streaming websites with pirated content routinely showcase adware, malware, related fraudulent activity. Fortunately, we are not powerless in this struggle: VPNs, antivirus software, pop-up blockers, adware blockers, TOR, and Web of Trust are proving to be highly effective tools at combating this global scourge.