We’d like to think we’ve come a long way from the days of chain mails, ‘forward this to ten people or suffer from bad luck for eternity’, and Nigerian Prince scams. Circa 2007, it seemed like you could barely open Hotmail (yes, we’re that old) without encountering some transparent (yet surprisingly effective) means of tricking early internet users into parting with their hard-earned money.

Like we said earlier, we like to think society has progressed since then (or at least become substantially less gullible). However, as anyone who has an elderly aunt in a family WhatsApp group can testify, the rise of social media and online communicative platforms has, sadly, done precious little to deter the spread of incorrect and, more often than not, harmful content (as well as created a plethora of “Good Morning, Have A Blessed Day” motivational memes – seriously, who is making those and sending them to our elders???).

The truth is, for every tech-savvy,’ Mr. Robot in training’ privy to the latest pseudo FNB text message asking you to click and verify, there’s a gullible old grand aunt in search of the next great weight loss miracle pill (or, let’s be honest, a middle-aged uncle trying to add one inch to his… hair). And, in the world of Cyber Security, nothing is more dangerous than unknowing internet users clicking things guaranteed to land them in trouble. Identity theft, malware, phishing scams and the like are more prevalent than ever (we are, after all the third most targeted country in the world for Cyber Crimes – what a time to be the best at something!).

A little education goes a long way, which is why we’ve put together this nifty survival guide to ensure your browsing time isn’t someone else’s payday…

  1. Bill Gates (or anyone, for that matter) is NOT going to send you money.

A quick Google search for the world’s richest man should bring up articles about Mr. Gates believing he’s the Coronavirus Messiah – but none, strangely, of him promising to send $1000 to everyone who forwards his test mailer. If you haven’t interacted with Microsoft, it’s highly unlikely they’ll contact you out of the blue (and if you are a customer, it’s even less likely that good ol’ Bill has decided to feel generous). As such, any Email or communication which promises you gold, diamonds and all the treasures in the land if you click a link, pass on a message, or download a file is 99.99% guaranteed to be a scam – so be wise and economise, because no small fortune ever came via a Gmail link.

  1. Do not click that link in your DM’s

Some common messages which have led to hacked Social Media Accounts begin with “I made this for you” and “this looks just like you”. We can safely say that nobody, especially your high-school rugby captain who you haven’t spoken to since 2012, has not made anything for you – nor will a link lead you to your doppelganger. Be wary of social media DM’s, especially those coming out the blue. More importantly, be careful of any message, be it via a social network or SMS, which directs you to click, follow or download something – often a simple button is all it takes.

  1. Nobody is going to help you earn $2000 a day working from home.

Sure, it’s technically possible, but only through many years of hard work, expertise, and knowledge. If getting rich were as easy as trusting an internet pop up, great aunt Gertrude would be a millionaire and this author wouldn’t be writing this piece at 10pm on a Friday (sorry, boss). These ads and offers (which usually make some outlandish promise that seems too good to be true) usually are, and can be found either in the comments, stories or web pop ups designed to catch desperate users off guard.

  1. That Bitcoin expert in the comments with 1000 testimonials is probably a bot.

These ones get us right in the feels, because sometimes said scammers go so far as to directly WhatsApp innocent, unsuspecting parties privately. You often don’t know where they got your details from or how they’re contacting you, but between their promises of unforetold riches and ‘guaranteed profit’, a gullible party can quickly become a victim. Our favourite pastime is to pretend we work for Interpol until they block our number, but this isn’t for everyone, so be wary of any unknown number even saying ‘hello’ to you, and don’t be fooled into thinking that 1am private message with 16 typos is a representative of a legitimate entity.

  1. The Government does not send out official Data (especially around Covid-19) via WhatsApp

In truth, we naturally distrust anything governmental. If they say it’s Level 3 loadshedding, we immediately assume we’re on Level 5 (which we normally get to anyway). But this one is specifically for those of you in the family chat who insist on passing on “official” Government memos – don’t do it. Official communications come from the predetermined channels (or a very slow speaking President talking in circles for thirty minutes) – but they most certainly don’t come from your local community watch group.

Sadly, we live in a society where it’s easier to get scammed than it is to get electricity. But, like we said earlier, a little education goes a long, long way. These are just the basics of navigating the digital world without being sucked in to a long, dark rabbit hole, but for a more comprehensive range of Cyber Security solutions, check out Armata.co.za. Oh, and lastly, this blog post is one link we don’t mind you circulating – in fact, we encourage it, so let’s get Aunty Gertrude back for a change 😛