Ever opened your emails and received a poorly-worded message about a payment that you weren’t expecting? What about one proclaiming that you’ve won a competition you never entered. “Congratulations!” it reads, beneath, a sinister attachment that you probably should not open.
This is becoming more and more common, and now Google has unveiled a website to teach people how to spot and avoid online scams. Digital hoaxes, malware and cyberattacks have been surging during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The website – Scamspotter.org – tries to show users how to identify things such as false stimulus checks, fake vaccine offers, or other fake medical information. The site also attempts to make clear certain patterns that are typical of hoaxes, like a romance scammer asking a target to wire them money or buy them a gift card, in order for users to recognise them before its too late.
Google launched the tool in partnership with the Cybercrime Support Network, a non-profit focused on helping victims of online fraud. The website includes a quiz that runs through common scam scenarios, like getting a message about winning a trip to a tropical destination, even if the recipient didn’t enter a contest.
CNET writes that scammers have exploited the pandemic with “alarming speed.” Americans have lost more than $40 million because of COVID-19-related scams, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The agency projects more than $2 billion will be lost due to scams across the board this year, coronavirus-related or otherwise. By 2025, cybercrime is expected to cost the world economy more than $27-billion.
The new website is also specially tuned to targetting and teachings seniors, who disproportionately lose more money than other demographics because of scams, Google says. The website urges to share information form the website to the elders in their lives.
It will take a cross-generational effort,” Vint Cerf, a pioneer in the development of the Internet, as well as a Google VP, says in a blog post. “If we learn how to spot the bad actors, we can spend our time focusing on those moments that matter.”
Cerf, who is 76, says seniors should feel like they can use the internet comfortably, because “we invented” it.
Edited by Luis Monzon
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