As times change, so do tactics. Due to the much wider variety of new technologies and tools that we interact with on a daily basis, people looking to pilfer have come up with some truly dastardly new techniques in recent years.
Glued to the screen
You’re walking down the street when you see a phone on the floor. You bend down to pick it up, but it’s sticking to that floor like Excalibur.
While you struggle with it, a pickpocket has taken the chance to lighten your load, walking away with whatever valuables they could grab right there and then.
This scam relies on hoping you’ll believe in winning big, so that thieves can take it all. An email comes through declaring that you, the luckiest customer on earth, have won a huge cash prize, a yacht, and the deed to the planet Mars!
However, this is a time-limited opportunity, so you must click through right away and input your details. Once that’s done, the thief walks away with your financial information, while you sit twiddling your thumbs and waiting for a cheque in the mail.
Card to believe
As the use of debit and credit cards steadily increases, they become much more frequent targets for theft. One way that thieves are attempting to steal card information is through fake attachments to ATM machines.
A dupe card reader will be placed over the actual card reader of the machine, and when an unwitting individual inserts their card, the fake reader lifts the information from it. To avoid information landing in the hands of thieves this way, it’s always worth checking an ATM reader to see if it’s genuine.
Some thieves will rely on catching a person on the back foot, exploiting a sense of surprise and worry to get money from them. In this scam, a thief will ask a passing stranger to take a picture of them with their camera, only for the unlucky mark to soon realize the camera is broken.
The thief then accuses this person of having broken their camera, demanding they reimburse them. As much of a blindside as this one can be, it can be thoroughly rebuffed so long as you keep your nerve and simply disengage.
An unwanted service
Some scams rely on looking the part to gain access to places that they wouldn’t normally be allowed. One common iteration of this scheme involves a person dressing as service staff, in an effort to gain access to your hotel room.
After doing so, they take the chance to rifle through your valuables, without the slightest suspicion directed their way. This scam can be avoided if you keep your valuables in a safe, take them with you, or even just say no to room service. That bed can go unmade a little longer.
This scam exploits people’s reflexive tendency to trust figures of authority, in order to access their sensitive information. Scammers will dress up as police officers and approach you, asking you to provide your personal details, or even requesting to come into your house.
If you let them do either of these things, they’ll have a chance to steal your money or your belongings. You should always ask for credentials when speaking to a police officer, and refuse to engage if they seem to be making suspicious requests.
At this point, it’s become a well-known joke that the average person is probably using a painfully insecure password, like 1234 or their birthday. However, this is far from any laughing matter. One way that people gain access to personal information is by using computers to run through huge numbers of possible passwords until they find the right one.
The simpler the password, the easier it is for a computer to guess it, and gain access to sensitive information. It’s for this reason that people need complex passwords, and to vary passwords between important accounts.
Phishing emails are designed to trick a person into submitting their personal details to an official-looking form. A phishing email might alert someone to a security problem that they must input their details to fix.
It might present a fake transactional email, designed to make people panic and input their details in an attempt to cancel a fake order. As a rule, companies will never request sensitive information in emails – and as such, any emails that do so should be treated with extreme suspicion, and whoever it purports to be from should be called immediately.
This scheme can be particularly galling, because it relies on the simplest act of negligence on the part of whoever is being targeted. When using the internet, you might notice that websites have a ‘secure’ and ‘not secure’ designation.
A secure website protects your information from third parties, while a non-secure one obviously does not. Scammers will attempt to induce people into submitting their information to non-secure websites, thus making it easy to steal. This scam can be avoided so long as you do due diligence, and check the status of websites asking for information.
It’s hard advising that people develop a mistrust of babies, but it could well be the right decision. Some street scammers will approach a stranger, asking for them to hold their baby for a quick moment.
Distracted by the sudden request and having to hold a baby, the mark is much less likely to notice the fact that they’re being pickpocketed, either by the supposed parent, or an accomplice they had nearby. Probably not by the baby, though. Nonetheless, people should be on their guard when asked to suddenly start juggling infants.
This is something of an old scam, but some tactics simply continue to deliver. The situation unfolds such that a cab driver offers to take your luggage over to the hotel, only to suddenly make a dash for it with your belongings.
It seems simple enough to avoid, but if you aren’t paying enough attention when you travel, you’ll make an easy mark. Although taxis are being somewhat phased out thanks to ride-share services, it’s always worth keeping your wits about you when getting into a total stranger’s car.
That’s the ticket
It’s a tale as old as time. You go to the website for a concert, ready to snap tickets up the moment they go on sale. However, when the time comes, you find that they’ve all disappeared within nanoseconds.
People desperate to get tickets will often turn to a scalper, waiting outside the venue for any unfortunate soul willing to take a chance. Although a scalper might seem heaven sent, a lot of the time the tickets they sell are stone-cold fakes, and you’ll just end up shelling out for a useless piece of paper.
Over your shoulder
There’s a reason that a lot of ATMs nowadays come with those little mirrors on either side of them. Although it seems unlikely that anyone would ever try something so obvious as peeking over your shoulder at your transaction, it absolutely does happen.
ATM users who really don’t pay attention can be completely oblivious to someone sneaking a look at their PIN, and then find themselves wondering why they’re suddenly a few hundred dollars short. Make sure to stay alert, and conceal your PIN whenever using an ATM.
Call and response
Sometimes, scammers will call a person pretending to be an employee of their bank, and make requests for personal information. Usually they’ll claim to be calling to fix a security problem, and the seemingly professional nature of the call can trick people into offering up their info, not realizing that the person they’re talking to is a fake.
Most banks never ask for information over the phone, so anyone who receives this kind of call should demand extensive authentication, or even hang up and call the bank themselves to check.
Take a dive
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it’s still an incredibly prevalent threat to people’s security. Some thieves will actually go through people’s garbage, looking for any letters that have their sensitive information on them.
If they find one, they’ll be able to gain access to whichever account is detailed on the document. As such, it’s recommended that people shred any private documents before throwing them out. This is one of the major benefits of adopting paper-free banking, as it helps the environment and eliminates this risk.
This is one of the more brazen ways of gaining access to a person’s information, as some thieves will simply take letters directly from their mailbox, hoping to find something with sensitive information there.
If you don’t get your post directly through your door, it’s worth setting up some form of security for your mailbox. A security camera, for instance, will at least catch anyone trying to steal your mail on camera, which would make apprehending them a whole lot easier.
As well as scamming specific people, thieves will target certain companies, as doing so successfully will net them the information of numerous individuals. Sometimes, corporate employees are targeted with phishing emails or hoax emails professing security concerns.
It’s also possible for the cyber infrastructure of a corporation to have flaws or loopholes in it, which can be targeted to leave their systems vulnerable. Companies are increasingly investing in better cyber-security, and cyber awareness training for their employees, to avoid these problems.
Credit reports are an area where people’s information can be particularly vulnerable, as the increase in organizations needing information increases vulnerability. A scammer might call up the people responsible for compiling your credit report, pretending to be your employer.
Most employers wish to see a credit report before hiring someone, so the agency holding your report might hand it over to this person at their request, without thinking to check properly. One of the only ways an individual can mitigate this risk is by paying regular attention to their accounts, and checking for suspicious activity.
Malware is a particularly nasty threat, that can do a lot of damage before being removed. Most malware makes its way onto a person’s computer by being inadvertently downloaded. It might be attached to software that someone downloads from a dubious source, or to an email that tricks someone into downloading it.
Malware reads your information, and transmits it to whichever person is trying to steal your details. People can avoid malware by being careful with which websites they download things from, being sure of any emails they accept downloads from, and by installing an anti-malware program.
You drive me crazy
It might seem innocuous to pick up a USB from the ground and see what’s on it. After all, someone probably just dropped it, and a clue to returning it might be on there. Or perhaps you’re just curious. However, random USBs can be incredibly dangerous.
A lot of times these devices have software on them that is designed to steal information from the computer it connects to, and send it to whoever planted the USB. If you find one on the street, it would be wisest to take it home and throw it away.
Return to sender
This is one of the craftier ways that people attempt to steal information, and why it’s worth paying proper attention to the documents you receive. Some scammers will find a way of altering a person’s address on certain databases, resulting in their mail being sent to the scammer instead of the addressee.
If you notice that you haven’t received some letters you expected to for a while, it’s worth following up to see what the reason is, and checking in with the government regarding your personal information.
Loose chips sink ships
In a world of contactless payment, the man with a card reader is king. As contactless cards rise in number, some thieves have taken to getting portable card readers near enough to people’s pockets to connect with their cards,and steal money from them that way.
Although most contactless payments are limited to a relatively low amount, so theoretically they shouldn’t be able to break your bank, it’s a scary prospect. Receiving regular updates from your bank and setting up alerts for abnormal spending should help mitigate damage if it does happen to you.
A room with no view
It’s not always easy to break into someone’s house, but that doesn’t stop thieves from trying. One of the biggest assets for someone looking to plunder a home is coverage. If a house is surrounded with tall fences, or a substantial amount of trees or bushes, it can provide cover for someone to get onto the property.
Paradoxical as it may seem, it’s actually a little safer if people have a solid view of your property, so they’ll be able to spot anyone walking around who shouldn’t be there.
Casing is the act of observing a house with the intent to burgle it, in order to gather details about it. Burglars will figure out a person’s daily routine, how tight security is, whether a lot of neighbors will be present during the day, etc.
Once they have what they think is enough information, they’ll strike. The best way to avoid this is to be vigilant. It’s easy to dismiss worries as you being paranoid, but if you see something you think is truly suspicious, it’s worth alerting the relevant people and authorities.
Disclaimer: Some photos may be stock images used for illustration purposes only. The people or places in these photos are not to be associated with the article.