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Whenever any new website platform or technology grows as quickly as Zoom has in recent years, it’s a good bet that there will be plenty of scammers trying to take advantage.
Zoom scams come in a number of different forms, and some are certainly far less believable, and far more obvious than others, but it is important to know the common scams and what to look out for when you are trying to navigate your daily online life without getting conned.
In this guide, we explain some of the red flags to look out for and the common schemes that a lot of scammers use to try and scare people into giving up details or thinking they need to pay their way out of a problem.
Knowing some of the scams that are doing the rounds is a good way to know exactly what to be on the lookout for and how you can avoid them, or at least be cautious when the email lands in your dropbox.
This scheme can target people who have jobs, but usually tries to take advantage of people who are looking for a job. You will get an email that claims a Zoom meeting has been set up with “HR”. You are asked to attend, and usually prompted to change your password. The site you are sent to is a fake, and scammers keep your details to use maliciously.
This is one of those scams that prey on peoples’ panic. Someone will claim that they have accessed your webcam, and that they have obtained sexual or explicit content of you as a result, and that you need to pay them not to leak this footage. The unscrupulous scammers usually point to the Jeffrey Toobin case.
It’s highly unlikely that they have any footage of you, as people are merely trying their luck and attempting to cause people to panic and thus part with their money.
In a similar ilk to the HR meeting, you will receive an email telling you that you need to attend an online meeting via Zoom. The word “emergency” is often used to try and stir up a sense of panic. People are more likely to make bad decisions if they are panicking, and the emails might even deliberately try to make someone fear for their job. Usually, the reset password trick is used to get you to put your details in. Alternatively, you may just be sent to a fake platform that allows hackers to steal your details.
You might be seeing a pattern here! This is just like the emergency meeting scam, with someone asking you why you missed the meeting, and to jump on a Zoom call. Except it won’t be a Zoom call, it will be a link asking you to input your details.
This is one of the email tricks that scammers try for pretty much any membership-based account. You will get an email saying you need to reset your password, or even demanding payment if you are on a paid plan for Zoom. These are some of the oldest tricks in the book.
There are a few simple ways that you can verify the email’s authenticity and try to establish whether you actually need to do anything or if you are being scammed.
The email address that you receive the message from is vital. Use a reverse email search tool to check if there is any data online about the email account. Is it from a legitimate Zoom email, or one of your colleagues? Be wary of any misspelt words in the email address, as this can be a sure sign that there is something not quite right.
It’s usually not a good idea to click on any link from an email without verification of who it came from and where that link will take you. Links can even be cloaked under different text so it looks like you’re going to a legitimate site but you are going to a spam website. Instead of clicking the link, go straight to your Zoom account or pick up the phone to your colleague to check it was actually them sending you the email.
Attachments can be loaded with dangerous malware. Don’t download attachments on any email where you don’t know the sender, or can’t verify where the message has come from.
You should have antivirus software to protect you against this sort of problem, and to identify any malware that people try to get you to install. Antivirus doesn’t always spot the issue, and it isn’t the answer for every single scam, so you need to be vigilant yourself, too.
If you click a link in an email and then log in, you are leaving yourself susceptible. This is how the scammers get you. They might send you a site that looks exactly like a Zoom platform and ask you to log in, but actually, it is just a foil to try and get your details from you.
You can use a reverse lookup to check the authenticity and trustworthiness of a website, too. A simple Google search might bring you the information you need, but reverse lookup tools are helpful, too.
It’s vital that you also think about the fact that links aren’t always what they appear. When you hover over the link with your cursor, most browsers will show you a “preview” of the link you will be visiting. In Google Chrome this is in the bottom left of the screen. A link could look like it is going to Zoom.us, but actually be going to “Zooiom.xyz” or a spammy alternative. This is a telltale sign of a scam.
A VPN can add an extra layer of security. This stands for virtual private network, designed to encrypt traffic and make it really tough for any scammers to steal your data. Again, this doesn’t protect you in every scenario but it is an extra layer of security. You may even be able to use a free VPN, or get a company-issued membership.
It’s always a good idea to be wary, and to think before you act. A lot of scams rely on people panicking, seeing a threat and acting quickly, and this can cause you to make very bad decisions. The perfect target for a scammer is someone who panics and acts on impulse. Try to take a deep breath and give it some thought, even if someone is claiming there is an urgent situation. Lookup the email and check whether you are being scammed. This takes a matter of seconds to do.
It’s a good idea to arm yourself with as many tools as you possibly can, too, in your search to be more protected. Antivirus, VPNs, and spam filters are all extra layers of defence to try and keep you safe.
Emily Andrews is the marketing communications specialist at RecordsFinder, an online public records search company. Communications specialist by day and community volunteer at night, she believes in compassion and defending the defenseless.