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Ex-cyber criminal reveals how to avoid con artists on the Internet

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An ex-hacker who began his unlawful online career at the tender age of 18 has revealed what you should be keeping a keen eye out for in your inbox.

The former cybercriminal turned cybersecurity professional, who goes by the alias ‘404’, shared his top tips for singling out those pesky scam emails and why you should not overshare online.

404, who served an eight-year stint as an unlawful online user, divulged phishing emails were the most common tool used to trick vulnerable users who ‘might be more susceptible to scams.’

He said: ‘Tactics like phishing, sending fake emails, or creating replica websites were used to trick individuals into revealing personal or financial information.

‘People can avoid them by being sceptical of unsolicited communications and verifying the authenticity of the sender.’

404, an ex-cyber-criminal turned cybersecurity professional shared spotting a dodgy email is often down to tone, spelling and grammar. Pictured: Anonymous computer hacker

But what is the best way of spotting a deceptive email? Luckily for us the ex-hacker revealed all.

His top tip was to carefully examine the email address, ensure it is from a verified sender or organisation.

Keep an eye out for spelling and grammar mistakes in the email address.


  • A genuine and verified email address from the organization.
  • Proper spelling and grammar.
  • Use of your actual name instead of generic greetings.
  • Information that is consistent with previous legitimate communications.
  • Information that is consistent with previous legitimate communications. 

The now cybersecurity expert of five years suggested to keep an eye out for the contents of the message itself, including threatening language, generic greetings as well as spelling or grammar faux pas.

They also advised internet users to avoid clicking links from unverified senders.

404 said: ‘Hover over links without clicking to see where they lead.’ 

If you want to avoid falling victim to con-artists online, the ex-hacker urged online users to avoid oversharing. 

They stated: ‘Most people are woefully unaware of how exposed they are online. 

‘They often don’t realize how much personal information is accessible to those who know where to look.’

404 disclosed that being open isn’t always the best route, especially on social media platforms.

The ex-cybercriminal warned individuals to keep their full address, bank details and NI numbers, family information among other highly sensitive information offline.

They also encouraged those who frequent the world-wide-web to use strong passwords, two-factor authentication, as well as secure trusted devices to evade falling prey to lawless online con artists.

Antivirus softwires such as McAfee, Norton, Bitdefender are ‘generally effective’ according to 404, but ‘regular updates and proper configuration are key.’

Unfortunately, phishing emails and oversharing aren’t the only online dangers out there.

Whilst, ransomware, phishing emails and identify theft are all commonplace on the technological goliath that is the internet, as technology progresses, online con artist are becoming savvier too.

404 declared: ‘Social engineering and deepfake scams are rising. Stay informed and verify information through trusted sources.’ 

The career of the  former hacker, who goes by the common not found error code, came to a screeching halt as a ‘combination of guilt, fear’ regarding the harm they were actively causing began to take over.

404 revealed those who are unfamiliar with tech are often targeted by online criminals, citing older adults as possibly being ‘more vulnerable’. File image: Unrecognizable hacker in front of computer

The ex-cybercriminal who once made $500,000 in one year revealed his biggest crime involved infiltrating the systems of a major financial institution.

The ramifications of this unlawful act meant a multitude of people lost their savings to the point the damage was felt in small businesses and communities. 

404 said: ‘Hacking into personal accounts and causing financial hardship to ordinary people is something that still haunts me.

Now a cybersecurity professional of five years, 404, warned against the path of lawless internet activity. Encouraging those with the skills to pursue a ‘fulfilling and legal career’ in cybersecurity.

They remarked: ‘I would highly encourage people to pursue cybersecurity. Making that change gave my life purpose and allowed me to use my skills for good.

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