Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

In this guide, you will learn:

How Social Engineering Works

Social Engineering uses human interaction and manipulation to gain access to your sensitive private/personal information. Online crooks deceive users to get hands on your money. It covers a scope of tricks cybercriminals use to make people do things they do not want to. The driving force behind this, of course, is profit.

Threat actors use social engineering to disguise themselves and their motives, often by acting as trusted individuals.

Signs of a Social Engineering Attack

Because these attacks come in many different shapes and sizes β€” and rely on human fallibility β€” it can be very hard to identify social engineering attacks. Nonetheless, if you encounter any of the below, be warned that these are major red flags and suggest a social engineering attack is commencing:

  • You receive an unsolicited email or text message from someone you don’t know.
  • The message is supposedly very urgent.
  • The message requires you to click on a link or open an attachment.
  • The message contains many typos and grammatical errors.
  • Alternatively, you receive a call from someone you don’t know.
  • The caller tries to obtain personal information from you.
  • The caller is attempting to get you to download something.
  • The caller similarly speaks with a great sense of urgency and/or aggression.

Types of Social Engineering

Here are the key social engineering attacks to be aware of:


Phishing uses email and text messaging to lure victims into clicking on malicious attachments or links to harmful websites.


Baiting uses a false promise to tempt victims via greed or interest. For example, malicious attackers leave a malware-infected flash drive, or a bait, in a public place. A potential victim may be interested in its contents and insert it into their device, unwittingly installing malware.


Pretexting: In this attack, one actor lies to another to gain access to data. For example, an attacker may pretend to need financial or personal data to confirm the identity of the recipient.


Scareware involves victims being scared with false alarms and threats. Users might be deceived into thinking that their system is infected with malware. They, then, install the suggested software fix β€” but this software may be the malware itself, for example, a virus or spyware. Common examples are pop-up banners appearing in your browser, displaying text like β€œYour computer may be infected.” It will offer to install the fix, or will direct you to a malicious website.

Spear phishing and whaling

Like phishing, but the attack is specifically targeted at a particular individual or organization. Similarly, whaling attacks target high-profile employees, such as CEOs and directors.


Also known as piggybacking, tailgating is when an attacker walks into a secure building or office department by following someone with an access card. This attack presumes others will assume the attacker is allowed to be there.

AI-Based Scams

AI-based scams leverage artificial intelligence technology to deceive victims. Here are the common types:

  • AI-Text Scam: Deceptive text messages generated by AI to phish information or spread malware.
  • AI-Image Scam: Fake images created using AI to manipulate and deceive individuals.
  • AI-Voice Scam: Fraudulent voice messages generated by AI to impersonate trusted entities and trick victims.
  • AI-Video Scam: Manipulated videos created using AI, known as deepfakes, used for spreading misinformation or targeting individuals.

Common Forms of Social Engineering

  • Visiting a suspicious link may open a phishing website that lets you believe they are from a known or trusted source. They will ask you to put in your login credentials and other sensitive, personal or privation information. Once they get your details, they can use them to steal money directly from your bank accounts and credit cards. Worse, they take over your email and other connected accounts to lock you out of your account.
  • Downloading an attachment may install malware on your device. Ransomware, a type of malware, can encrypt your important files and hold them hostage for ransomware. Some malware can also record any activity on your device to get your data.

What To Do After Realizing You've Been Manipulated

  1. Change the password of your email and other online accounts.
  2. Contact your financial institutions including your bank and see how they can help you further.
  3. Report the scam to prevent more victims.

How to Prevent Social Engineering Attacks

Aside from keeping an eye out for warning signs, the following are best practices to follow:

  • Keep the operating system and cybersecurity software of your devices updated.
  • Use multifactor authentication and/or a Password Manager on all your accounts.
  • Do not open emails and attachments from unknown sources.
  • Set your spam filters to high.
  • Delete and ignore any requests for financial information or passwords.
  • If you suspect something during an interaction, be calm and take things slowly.
  • Do your research when it comes to websites, companies, and individuals.

Are There Apps That Help Prevents Social Engineering Attacks?

Install Trend Micro Maximum Security to stop malware, fraud, phishing, email hacking, and other targeted attacks on your PC and online accounts. Get the same protection for your mobile with Trend Micro Mobile Security for Android and Trend Micro Mobile Security for iOS.

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