Online Scams are getting more and more sophisticated. Some of the older scams are still in use and still making scammers money. We’re going to review some of the older ones to be aware of and some of the newer ones that are catching people now.
Before we dive in, let’s review some stats. Many believe older generation are more susceptible to these online scams, but as it turns out, 40% of 20-29 year-olds have reported losing money to fraud, compared to 18% of 70+ year olds. On that note, the average individual loss for the 20-29 year-olds is much lower than the average individual loss for the 70+ crowd.
The last thing we should note is that no matter the online scam, the one goal for the scammer is to get your money. If you find yourself in a situation where you are being asked for money, stop and think about what is happening. Do some research. Put them off until you are able to verify details. If there is any kind of doubt or issue, decline and move on.
We’ve categorized the major online scams into 5 main buckets and discuss each one with methods to avoid them below:
Fraud is defined as, “a person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.” In other words, it’s someone lying to you about who they are and/or what you will get in return for compensation. There is all kinds of fraud on the internet looking to scam you out of your hard earned money.
Get Rich Quick
Any time anyone says that you can make $xx.xx a day, a week, or a month, it is a get rich quick scheme. Some people have actually made a little bit of money this way, but the vast majority, including you, will not. Don’t listen and don’t give into the amazing opportunity. Hone your skills, and get a real job or start your own company.
Too good to be true? IT IS! If you get that email or that phone call and they tell you that a vacation to an exotic location is going to be under $100, be very Leary! Look into their credentials. If it’s legit, buy direct rather than through the phone call or email. This will avoid the chance of having your payment details stolen.
Cryptocurrency / Bitcoin
This is actually a real thing, however, online scammers are going to try to steal your money under the guise of a legitimate cryptocurrency or pretend to be a broker of a legitimate cryptocurrency. Look for reviews on the broker or the platform and make sure they have a standing history. If it’s a new company, let someone else test them out. Keep your money safe.
So you got an email saying you overpaid and need a refund? Don’t ever believe it! Larger companies have systems in place to avoid overcharging their patrons. If you do deserve a refund, call their customer service department and request it through them.
Were you on a website and clicked on an ad? Suddenly you got a pop-up saying that your computer is hacked and to call a number to fix it? Or did you get that phone call claiming to be Microsoft saying that they’ve monitoring your computer and it has been compromised? Don’t call that number or hang up ASAP! They’re just trying to get access to your computer to add viruses to it and possibly have you pay a fee to let them do it.
Nigerian Prince Fortune
Someone came up with this scheme thinking that Nigeria is so far out of mainstream culture that people will believe that a Nigerian Prince needs a random person to help him move his money. The scheme can play off of any type of royalty or fortune heir, but for some reason, it’s the Nigerian prince who keeps getting people. Anyone asking you to help them move money, is probably trying to scam you. Just delete it.
Extortion is, “the practice of obtaining something, especially money, through force or threats.” These online scams often have no basis in reality, but they do sound scary. They are often time threatening your life or a loved one’s life. Sometimes it threatens cute animals or some terrorist activity. And sometimes it plays off of embarrassing you or ruining your reputation.
Hitman / Assassination
These usually come in the form of an email. The email is going to be made up, using some free email service. It will come with a threat on your life or a loved ones life. They might have some information that they found on social media or some other website that has your contact details. The likelihood of the threat being real is slim to none. But we always suggest you take it to the police.
Public Release of financial Details
This will again come in the form of an email. Very unlikely that they have any data at all. If your financial institution was compromised, they have an obligation to let you know and they will always take steps to protect your financial assets. We do also suggest you bring it up to your financial institution, just for piece of mind. And occasionally they will change your numbers just to keep you safe.
Public Release of search history/Pornography
This often comes in the form of an popup ad or browser error message. Occasionally the popup ad will include sound with some siren etc. and a voice saying they have your search history showing pornography and other lewd or illegal sites. Simply close it and stop visiting the site you were just visiting. (chances are, that site was low quality or illegal anyway and will not protect you or your information) Occasionally this will come in the form of a virus, and in that case, you’ll need your anti-virus software or a qualified technician to help clean it up for you.
The scams that are tied in with computer viruses are particularly annoying. A computer virus is, “a piece of code which is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data.” They can even lock down your files and require a ransom before they are unlocked. Here’s what some of the worst viruses have done.
Some popular services allow you to create greeting cards and send email them out. Some are online scams that will require the recipient to download a media player, which is really a virus. If you receive an e-card and it requires you to download something, don’t do it. Delete it and move on.
Video/Media Content/Porn/Illegal Streaming
Websites and emails that contain media are always susceptible to carrying viruses. Many are safe, but beware, especially when you are delving into the darker side of the internet. Looking for free media, illegal streaming, pornography, etc. is very likely to lead you to viruses. When looking for these items, often times clicking decisions are made without thinking about the consequences. This is where malcontents and hackers will take advantage of you. Best way to avoid it? Don’t go looking for it.
Torrent sites are a dime a dozen and choosing the wrong one will leave you littered with fake downloads and viruses. Choosing the safe ones will still open you up to viruses. If you’re not experienced with removing viruses, best to stay away from Torrent sites. If you are using torrent sites, you best know how to use your antivirus and use it heavily. Also plan to back up your system often and hold on to 2-3 backups of your data. The likelihood of you wiping and reloading is very high and you’ll probably end up doing it every few months.
Viruses love to hide in what seems like legitimate software. We call these Trojans (based on the Trojan horse story). So how do you know when you’re downloading legitimate software vs. a potential virus? First check the domain. Make sure it is the same website that you thought you were downloading it from. Second, make sure that website is either the manufacturer’s official website or the official download site for that software. Lastly, if it looks shady or your spidey senses are tingling, bail on it and find another legitimate antivirus. Generally, expect to pay for your antivirus and check the reviews to make sure it will get the job done. Avoid the free ones. They don’t protect as well, and the likelihood of them being a Trojan is high.
When someone steals your identity, they can cause a lot of trouble and it usually hits your pocketbook or the pocketbook of your friends and family. From stealing your direct financial information or using your identity to con your friends and family out of money, nobody is every happy afterward.
Phishing is a way to trick someone into giving information. It’s usually accomplished by making you think you’re entering information into a familiar page (like your bank) but really you’re entering data into a form that goes straight to the hackers. Avoid this by double checking the domain every time you enter information into a website. Make sure that domain is the actual domain of the website you are entering your information. Rather than clicking a link from a website or email, just type in the domain of the website you are intending on typing in your information. We see this on anything from Bank Loans and Credit Cards to Lottery Winning and Loyalty Points or even Job Offers.
An Impostor is, “a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain.” Online, this usually takes the form of fake profiles, Romance solicitations, or business partnerships. In almost every case, it is taking advantage of a relationship being built with you.
Romance scams are not only tough on the pocketbook, but often they’re tough on the heart strings as well. A scammer will generally approach the target pretending to be an ideal lover. After weeks of communicating and building trust, they begin asking for money. It usually starts small with gifts etc. Then maybe something to help their pet dog. And then the big bills start coming. Usually a large bill for healthcare or for a legal matter. Throughout this whole time, they will never meet face to face and will hardly ever do a video chat. If you find yourself giving money to a potential lover who you’ve never met in person, cut off the relationship now! It’s only going to end up in being scammed.
Social Media Impostors
Social media impostors will either hijack a profile or copy images and data from a profile and create a brand new one. These online scammers will approach a target trying to rebuild a relationship or to approach you with a great business opportunity. They are relying on the trust you’ve built with the actual person the profile represents, but then they come up with stories that require you to send them money for either your mutual benefit or for the benefit of the person you care about. If something seems out of the ordinary or a little out of place about their communication, that is a red flag. If they start asking for money out of the blue, definitely pick up the phone and call the real person to find out what’s going on. More than likely, they’ve been hacked or someone is posing as them.
In any of the cases above, you always need to be asking yourself, “Am I on a safe website and the real domain of that website?” Or “Is this actually real?” Next ask yourself, how can I confirm what I’m doing is safe and not going to land me in a scam. When you are prudent, you’ll find yourself avoiding online scams and keeping your money in your own pocketbook.