Online scams: how to avoid becoming a victim
Nobody wants to become a victim (or a statistic), but given the ever-changing methods, hackers are trying to stay one step ahead of us. Here is a list of the top online scams and tips to avoid being tricked.
1) Job offer online scams
You receive a spam email offering you a job, generally outside your area of expertise, and often corresponding to a mystery shopper position or a similar function. When you accept, you get paid by check or money order, and the amount is more than what your “employer” offered. You are then asked to return the difference and you discover that the original check or money order was forged. Too late, the money you sent to your bogus employer is no longer in your possession.
With the rise of professional social networking websites such as LinkedIn, unwanted job postings are becoming more common. In other words, all job seekers should use their common sense to distinguish legitimate offers from scams. If you decide to accept a job, never cash suspicious checks without verifying their authenticity. To make sure, ask your bank to place the funds “on hold” until the check or money order is verified. If you are asked to return the “difference”, it may be a sign of a scam.
2) Lottery scams
You receive an email claiming that you are the winner of a little-known lottery, usually in another country and always corresponding to a huge win. You may also be asked to pay a small amount to “reclaim” your winnings. You have to send your personal information for verification, then suddenly you are a victim of identity theft and the money you sent is gone.
Here are some warning signs of lottery scams:
- The email is from an individual, not a company.
- Other recipients are also targeted.
- You have never heard of the lottery.
If you receive such an email, do a quick Google search to verify that it is legitimate. (It never is.) We all hope to benefit from an unexpected and providential gain but if you did not buy a lottery ticket, it is a safe bet that you are not the winner. Never email your personal information to people you don’t know, and never trust anyone who tries to offer you money for nothing.
3) Beneficiary scams
You receive an email from someone looking to transfer money quickly. These e-mails often come from people claiming to belong to a royal family. You have probably heard of the scam of a supposed Nigerian prince.
But, most of the time, they come from a “businessman” who claims to have so-called millions that he wants to get out of his country and asks for your help in exchange for part of the interest. The sender mentions just enough details to make the offer appear legitimate.
But the funds are systematically delayed and you have to advance many fees to facilitate the transfer of the funds. It’s easy to fall for this type of scam if you’re bad luck, but you need to recognize the signs that you shouldn’t trust appearances.
Grammatical and spelling errors in the original e-mail, as well as a return address that does not correspond to the sender prove that, especially on the Internet, anything that seems too good to be true is probably so.
4) Online scams on dating sites
You meet an individual through an Internet dating site or a discussion forum. You get to know each other and feel that it is all very real. But you can never be sure who is on the other side of the screen. If you find yourself in a virtual relationship with someone who starts asking you for money, intimate photos, or to send items back to them, you’re dealing with a scammer.
“Catfishers” (scammers), as they are often referred to, often impersonate a real person in order to appear genuine and provide genuine information but send fake photos and contact details to cover their tracks. Scams on dating sites are characterized by:
- A demonstration of strong emotions in a very short time.
- A rapid evolution of the relationship from the dating site to private channels.
- Requests for money based on personal difficulties (a sick parent or a professional failure).
Avoiding these scams requires a close look at any virtual relationships that move too fast. Never offer someone money unless you have an offline relationship with them. And if you make an appointment with this person outside of cyberspace, inform those around you of your meeting place, to guarantee your safety.
5) Fake charity scams
In the aftermath of large-scale natural disasters or other massive tragedies, you want to do your part and scammers know how to take advantage of it. They set up dummy donation sites and accounts, then craft an emotional email asking for funds that will never be given to the victims.
Read also: Embezzlement is Type of Financial Fraud
These online scams succeed because they play on compassion, but be sure to investigate. Concretely check the donation sites and their real link with the interests they claim to represent.
Don’t donate to sites that look suspicious. Any real charity will have a full website including its statement of purpose and tax exemption documents.
6) Repair scams
In a scam that begins in real life and quickly evolves into a virtual scam, you receive a call from an individual claiming to work for “Microsoft” or a major software company. It claims to be able to fix computer problems such as internet connection speed or download delays.
The offer seems “attractive”. So when the email arrives in your inbox, you download a remote access program that allows crooks to take control of your computer and install malicious programs. Not all consumers are tech savvy. Many of them don’t know how their PC works and are easily intimidated by scammers. After installing the malicious program, they gain access to your files, data and personal information.
Never accept unsolicited advice or services unless you are absolutely sure who you are talking to. Do not allow anyone to remotely access your computer. If someone calls you, ask them to state their identity. It’s a safe bet that if you ask enough questions, the scammer will realize you can’t be tricked.
Now that you know what to expect from cyber crooks, watch out for these worms to avoid being phished. Scammers are getting smarter, so you need to be extremely vigilant to protect your computer and your information.
Report online scams to your local or national Police
Criminal activity must be reported to your local or national police. INTERPOL does not investigate or arrest people; this is the responsibility of the national (or respective state) police.
Once you have reported the crime, the police in your country can access INTERPOL’s services and databases if needed. Even if the crime you wish to report is international in nature, you must still contact the local police.
Photo credit: Piqsels (Public domain)