Computers and Technology

Hackers and Human Error: Social Engineering Attack Examples

Think about internet crime, and you probably envision hackers typing in elaborate codes. The FBI received nearly 800,000 complaints of internet crime in 2020.

Most of the complaints involved social engineering, not technical computer hacking. Social engineering involves exploiting human psychology to gain access to things. When you are looking to increase your cybersecurity, you need to examine social engineering attack examples.

What are the most common types of social engineering attacks? What are some examples for each type? How can you avoid falling victim to social engineering?

Answer these questions and you can keep safe without blowing through your savings. Here is your quick guide.


Phishing scams involve impersonating trustworthy sources. A hacker may pretend to be the representative at a victim’s bank. They say that they need the victim’s personal information in order to do something for them.

A Nigerian 419 scam involves impersonating a Nigerian government official. The scammer claims to need a small amount of money, and they say they will award the victim with riches in the future. In reality, they take the money they are sent and never speak to the victim again.

Phishing can take place through emails or text messages. Some emails may contain links, asking the victim to click on them in order to do something. Clicking on the link may download a virus on the target’s computer or transmit information to the hacker’s device.

Phishing is practically the definition of social engineering. A phishing scammer exploits a victim’s trust in authority figures and their desire to do right by others.

Yet even the most common social engineering attacks have flaws. Many phishing emails contain typos or inaccuracies.

Banks and other companies have made it clear that they will never ask for clients’ information through emails. This discourages many people from opening phishing emails.

Online Baiting

Online baiting provides many examples of social engineering. Hackers rely on the desire of targets to earn more money or obtain a useful service for free.

A hacker may send an email to a victim saying that they found a download of a movie they like. When the target downloads the movie, they are actually downloading a piece of malware.

Other scammers can more elaborate. They buy banner ads on websites that offer jobs or free pieces of expensive software. Targets click on the ads and then receive viruses.

Phishing and online baiting can overlap with each other. Some people who commit online baiting impersonate companies like Adobe or Microsoft. Phishing involves sending confidential information while online baiting tries to get the target to click links.

Online baiting can be damaging, but it is easy to avoid. You should not click on any banner ads you see. If you get an email from someone you don’t know, you should delete it.

Phone Calls

Hackers know that people are becoming aware of different types of social engineering attacks. Some of them are transitioning to phone calls instead of emails and social media messages.

Receiving a phone call can seem more trustworthy than receiving an email. You don’t know who the person sending you an email is. But you can hear the person’s voice at the other end of the phone, and they can seem confident and intelligent.

Many hackers use the social engineering techniques they used in phishing emails. They pretend to be a customer representative at a company like Netflix. They say they need the target’s information in order to unlock their account.

Other hackers pretend to be law enforcement or an IRS representative. They claim that the target has an arrest warrant or unpaid taxes. They ask for important pieces of legal information, which they can use to steal someone’s identity.

Phone call attacks can be more devastating than online attacks. If you ever get a phone call from someone claiming to be a police officer, you should hang up. You should then call your local police station and ask them about what is going on.

Live Interactions

It is very easy to fall victim to a social engineering attack in real life. A hacker may pretend to work in a victim’s office. They ask someone to hold the door for them so they can go inside, and they then do malicious things.

While inside, the attacker acts as though they belong in the office. They may pretend to work on an important project, or they may give orders to younger employees. This can make it hard to figure out who is an attacker.

An attacker may leave a CD or flash drive out. Someone may pick the device up and put it in their computer to see what it is. This can lead to a virus being downloaded.

If you have an important office, you should require keycards for entry. Anyone who cannot present a keycard should not be allowed inside, whatever their excuse may be.

Employees should also have ID badges. Security officers should approach anyone without an ID and ask them what they are doing. Officers should receive training in security planning and compliance, upgrading a company’s internal computers.

The Most Common Social Engineering Attack Examples

Social engineering attack examples may surprise you. A phishing scammer will impersonate a trustworthy official to steal your information. Online baiting involves sending you links that will download malware.

A hacker may make a phone call to build trust before stealing your information. They may walk into your office, acting like they are a legitimate employee.

You must ignore all emails and phone calls from people you don’t recognize. Confront anyone in your office who does not have an ID card.

Keep learning about the threats to your business. Read more security guides by following our coverage.

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