How To Avoid Scams During The Olympics
Few events bring the whole world together like the Olympics. Every two years we send our best athletes to compete on the most prestigious international stage. Unfortunately, excitement and pride are not the only things that unite Olympics spectators at home and in the stands. You are also a potential target for Internet scammers looking to exploit interest in the Olympics. From stealing personal information to selling counterfeit merchandise, there are a number of ways cybercriminals try to trick fans of the Olympics Games. Here are the most common scams to look out for so you can safely enjoy your favorite athletes and sports.
Fraudulent Websites and Apps
Any time a large event draws media attention, whether a natural disaster or a celebration, scammers rush into action to set up malicious websites and apps. On the surface, these appear to be legitimate sources of information and merchandise. But their real purpose is to spread viruses and malware to your computer, smartphone, or tablet. They may also steal sensitive information you’ve stored, such as a social security or credit card number. These tips will help you avoid clicking on or downloading anything harmful:
- Bookmark the official Olympic website so you can visit it easily without performing an Internet search. Note that the web address ends in “.org” instead of “.com.” To access the latest news and content, download the free official Olympic app for iPhone or Android. You can also follow the Games on social media (GooglePlus, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook). If you familiarize yourself with these official Olympic outlets at the beginning of the Winter Games, you’ll be less susceptible to clicking on malicious links or downloading fraudulent apps.
- Besides official Olympic pages and apps, NBC has its own dedicated 2018 PyeongChang page. Websites and social media channels for reputable news outlets are also a safe source of information about the Olympics.
- As the Games get underway, be wary of any links you see on social media, Internet search engines, and in your email. We’ve written before about the danger of clicking on shortened links from Facebook or Twitter posts. Scammers will try to lure you to click with the promise of exclusive videos, merchandise sales, or contests. Always “Hover to Discover,” which simply means holding your mouse over the abbreviated URL until the full web address appears. If it looks fishy or you simply aren’t sure, don’t click. Go to the one of the official pages or apps instead. If the contest or other content isn’t posted there, it’s probably not real.
Cybercriminals don’t always wait for you to come to them. Sometimes they appeal to you directly through email with messages that may seem eerily personal. For example, scammers can find out basic personal information about you such as your first name, birthday, and/or interests just by viewing your public social media profiles. This allows them to send “spear phishing emails,” meaning they are targeted and personalized instead of a generic form letter. Just as you would be cautious about the links you click on, scrutinize any Olympic-related emails that don’t come from sources you recognize (such as a newspaper or magazine email list). The most common types of phishing emails include:
- Sweepstakes Scams: In this type of phishing email, you receive an email notifying you that you’ve won something such as a trip to see The Games, merchandise, and other Olympic-themed prizes. But before you can claim your prize you must pay a fee or tax, or provide personal information that could lead to identity theft. Delete these emails right away and don’t click on any links, which could lead you to malicious websites.
- Special deals on Olympic merchandise: You might receive merchandise sale offers via email or see an ad somewhere online. However tempting it might be to buy souvenir gear at lower-than-usual prices, don’t take the bait. The least that could happen is you end up with counterfeit merchandise, but the worst outcomes include having your credit card information or identity stolen. It’s always best to buy merchandise from an authorized retailer.
Go Team USA!
Union Bank wishes you a safe and fun Winter Games. Now that you know how to protect yourself from scams, we hope you enjoy the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics with friends and family. If you are a Union Bank customer and suspect you’ve had personal or financial information stolen, please contact us immediately.