Have You Heard Of Pretexting? Know What It Is and How To Protect Yourself
More and more technological advancements are introduced in devices, apps, tools, and programs. Unfortunately, online predators are not running out of creative ways to target and lure victims. Social engineering now has many possible forms, from phishing to smishing to catfishing to adware hacking.
Pretexting is another form of cybercrime. We will define pretexting in detail, so read on to further understand how this attack acquires confidential or sensitive information such as maiden name, date of birth, SSN, and credit card information.
What is Pretexting Attack?
Pretexting is a type of social engineering which is a cyber-attack where predators use other people’s soft spots and emotions to their advantage. There could be varying reasons why one would go through such an intricate manipulative process – from exploiting data to stealing identity to getting financial benefits.
Pretext refers to the prefabricated message that online predators make and use to trick their victims. These are creatively crafted texts with relatable scenarios that could encourage and lure individuals into taking actions that benefit the pretexters voluntarily.
Pretexting is a form of social engineering that catches the victim’s attention through a fabricated scenario. The predator creates a well-crafted message to trick targeted individuals into voluntarily disclosing their personal information.
Like any other cyber-attack, this approach takes advantage of people’s trust and intentionally plays with human emotions. Scammers pretend to be someone their target is likely to trust, or they use scenarios as bait.
Pretexting Hacking Process
Attackers first identify their targets and categorize them to specify their pain points and usual concerns. From there, they think of relevant scenarios and create custom-fit messages. They will then use bulk messaging apps or tools for a more widespread attack.
In general, pretexting is a manipulation of trust and confidence. Pretexters usually pretend to be generally trusted individuals such as police officers, clergies, insurance investigators, human resources managers, or anyone with authority.
Here are some common scenarios used on pretexts.
Bank Account Information Update
To ensure the security of your (bank name) account, we are conducting random audits. Please send your bank details including the OTP that will be sent to you so we can check your account now.
Subscription Plan Upgrade
(Company name) is celebrating its 10th anniversary and will be giving free premium access for 10 months. All you need to do is reply to this email with the OTP sent via SMS.
We greatly appreciate your loyalty (customer name)! To show our gratitude, we’ll be sending you some freebies. Please send us your complete home address as well as your date of birth so we can ship the items as soon as possible.
Raffle or Contest Winners
Congratulations! You’re one of the 10 lucky winners of a brand new car. Fill out this form today so we can process the release of your prize!
5 Risks of Social Engineering Pretexting
Social engineering is a process of conducting malicious social experiments to get people into taking the bait. They use what usually are harmless means of connecting with other people – from text messages to emails to advertisement pop-ups. Through social engineering, the data or files the predators need are given to them instead of going through the tedious processes of bypassing or forcing access.
Hence, pretexting is risky, and in most cases, you won’t realize you’ve fallen victim until it’s too late. And with this cyber attack, you could be exposing yourself to:
- Identity theft
- Data breach
- Privacy exploitation
- Device compromise
- Monetary loss
Other Forms of Social Engineering
Social engineering is a process of conducting malicious social experiments to get people to take the bait. They use what usually are harmless means of connecting with other people – from text messages to emails to advertisement pop-ups. Through social engineering, the data or files the predators need are given to them instead of going through the tedious processes of bypassing or forcing access.
Pretexting is only one of the many forms of social engineering. Here are some of its other common types.
- Email Phishing
- Spear Phishing
Precautionary Measures You Can Take
Technology and all its advancements are, indeed, significantly beneficial to everyone. However, there’s no denying that such freedom and advantages come with certain risks and threats.
Most web-based service providers, device manufacturers, and software developers proactively incorporate some safety measures and security protocols. But in most cases, these aren’t enough.
When you receive a pretext, here are some precautionary measures you can take to protect yourself from the threats and dangers of pretexting.
- Do not click on links.
- Do not download files or attachments.
- Do not disclose personal information.
- Do not share account-specific information.
- Do not divulge login credentials and PINs or OTPs.
- Do not transact or get involved without confirming the credibility of the scenario.
When using technology of any sort, especially cloud-based platforms or tools, make it a habit to be cautious and proactive. In the case of pretexting, it’s best to either completely ignore or thoroughly track the source of the pretext.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between pretexting and phishing?
Both pretexting and phishing are forms of social engineering wherein they mainly manipulate targeted victims into voluntarily disclosing confidential data or unknowingly granting access to their devices. The crucial difference is the approach – phishing uses urgency and fear, while pretexting uses a false sense of authority, trust, and confidence.
What are some types of social engineering?
Social engineering is one of the most common attacks used by predators. This cybercrime basically involves manipulation, and it comes in various forms or approaches, including Pretexting, Email Phishing, Spear Phishing, Smishing, Vishing, and Whaling.
Is pretexting a criminal offense?
Yes, a signed bill states that pretexting is a federal offense. The law forbids the act of impersonation, misrepresentation, manipulation, or deception to obtain someone else’s personal information.
What should I do when I receive a pretext?
First of all, you must be aware of how to spot pretexts. Remember the rule of thumb, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” Then be sure not to click or download anything. Also, never disclose your personal information or any confidential information to anyone.
Related Post: Can Your WhatsApp Be Hacked? The Answer May Shock You!
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