Internet scams keep evolving. According to the FBI’s report, 2019 saw an all-high 3.5 billion USD in losses owing to online crimes. Nowadays, there is a chance that con artists on this planet are zeroing in on a mobile device or computer near you.
Given the risks, should we dive into Internet frauds’ definition, the most common types, how to avoid them, and even more? With these pieces of information, you will surely protect your private info and money from being stolen.
What are Internet scams?
Their evolution is no joke and they can vary considerably. Usually, Internet scams mean someone leveraging Internet services and whatnot to manipulate or defraud victims, commonly for the money.
These thieves tend to reach potential victims via work or private email accounts, dating applications, social networking sites, and then some. That way, they can lay their hands on beneficial personal info such as financial one.
A lot of well-done Internet scams share the same outcomes. That is, victims do not get the funds promised by the fraudster. Else, their money flies out of the window.
How do online frauds work?
In other words, what techniques do scammers adopt to fool you?
On the one hand, computer scams take advantage of technology. But on the other hand, you know, they work leveraging a lot of similar techniques to real-life scams. We refer to it as ‘social engineering.’ These criminals make use of how people often think and work on having you reveal personal info, allow them to access computers, or hand out money.
For instance, you may receive fraudulent emails that claim to be from your bank. These will navigate you to a website requiring you to enter your login information.
Another example is that someone likely calls you and offers to repair a security issue on your computer. Their actual intention is to set up software they can leverage to get your most private info.
The thieves will pretend to be kind and all that, helping or protecting you. Some even promise fantastic money-saving offers. But they are trying all the while to pressure you into realizing what they are intent on attaining.
Generally, the cybercriminals will make you experience time pressure, remind you of acting fast to remain safe, not to miss out on a great deal, among others.
What are they looking for?
More often than not, scams have to do with financial motivation, though compared to others, some are more overt.
They might scam you to purchase an unnecessary service or product. In some cases, you are asked to invest in dubious things. A lot of thieves want to steal sensitive data for financial gain, particularly your Internet banking credentials and login info. Or they try to extract any info helpful for their way in your online accounts like email.
Else, the scammers look for info they can take advantage of to impersonate you and apply for credit cards or loans in your name. Reportedly, impersonation fraud increased by over eighty percent in the first half of last year.
But you should not only mind about such obvious stuff. Thieves can even use a seemingly harmless quiz on a social media platform to access information, say your birthday, first school, etc. These pieces of info could be valuable elsewhere to get back to a security question that protects your Internet banking, for example.
Biometrics get more and more prevalent. It implies that an increasing number of social media quizzes are trying and having you share your photos – not as harmless as you may assume.
Why is this fraud targeting me?
Internet scams are not personal. Often, they aim at a variety of people such that even a few of you can get scammed. Yet, on the other hand, some are more susceptible than others. Thieves likewise like to victimize those who are older. That is because they might be lonely, not as familiar with technology, or suffer age-linked conditions.
These scammers will also do their best to confuse and pressure those possibly not detecting the scam at once or seeking advice and support before saying ‘no.’
The most feasible weapon against Internet scams is pausing and making an overall assessment of the situation. Ask yourself:
- Have they contacted you unannounced?
- Have they asked to share private info, particularly unnecessary details?
- Are they asking you to set up software or give access to an online account, your phone, etc.?
- Do they have all the info that a firm or organization’s real representative would?
- Are you being asked to do something promptly or not let your bank, family, or friends know what is up?
Generally speaking, should something sound suspicious, it may be. That is why do not let yourself be pressured and do it.
Most common types of Internet scams & How to avoid
Phishing involves you getting an email from a quite familiar company that you suppose to be legitimate, for instance, your bank, school, or a store you often visit. The message navigates you to a site, typically to verify private info like your email and passwords. It then accesses your info and allows cybercriminals to attack your PC.
Phishing is among the most common scams. As per statistics shown by the FBI, over 114,000 people were scammed this way in 2019. Altogether, their loss was more than $57 million, or around 500 USD each.
One of the almost undetectable phishing scams was the Google Docs-related case happening several years ago. Here, the email invited the user to make changes to a doc. What is even more sophisticated was it looked so real as it ran in Google’s system. Yet, the second the user agreed to edit this doc, they were granting a 3rd-party software the authority to access their contacts and emails. This way, scammers could steal private info, for example, credit card numbers and bank accounts. They might likewise lay their hands on your social security number possibly leveraged to get just about anything from you.
It is significant to address that phishing scam comes in every size and shape. For instance:
- Offer a coupon for free services or products.
- Claim your entitlement to apply for a government refund.
- Ask you to make a payment by pushing a link.
- Send a fake invoice.
- Say updating or confirming your private info is necessary.
- Claim that your payment info or account encounters an issue.
- State they have noticed suspicious log-in attempts or activities on your account.
Due to the diverse phishing forms, protecting yourself fully is difficult. The best weapon against this scam is checking with care who is asking for your info.
Do not click the links offered in emails you fail to confirm independently. This way will lead to your PC and sensitive info being susceptible to malware and viruses.
Even if the sender is seemingly legitimate, which is definitely what the thieves wish you to believe, no trusted organization will require you to reveal your private info online. Contact them to confirm whether they sent it should the email or message be from someone you know and you find it weird. And since you are not sure, just do not click.
What is more? According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Phishing emails tend to have grammatical errors or typos. Also, there is usually something fishy related to the sender’s email address. An important note is most of the time, phishing emails are widespread with typographical and grammatical errors. Do not ever presume hackers are stupid that way. It is indeed their intentional strategy employed to get rid of those who would be improbable to fall victim to the scam.
2. Fake tech support
In this instance, you get an email, a phone call, or a pop-up warning that points out your computer becomes infected. “How could they know?” – Ask yourself.
The so-called tech scammer then:
- Makes you think that there is something wrong. Else, downloads a real virus.
- Urges you to install an app that enables them to gain remote control of your PC.
- Lets you know they can repair the issue for a fee.
Otherwise, these scammers try to use search results to reach you. They either run their ads or have their websites appear in Internet search results.
And usually, they ask you to use a gift card, bank wire, or money transfer application to pay.
Tech support scams are increasingly prevalent. According to the FTC, it got over 100,000 reports regarding fake tech support during 2019. Reportedly, about half of the phone calls in 2019 were projected to come from scammers. And in case you want to hear the real call with this type of scammer, check this. That is why you need to figure out how to avoid, spot, and handle such malicious actions.
More specifically, in case you gave a cybercriminal remote control of your PC, update your security software at once. Also, run an exhaustive scan and remove anything it detects as an issue. Plus, change your user name and password immediately if you share them.
Report these thieves to the FTC should you think you have been reached by or have fallen for them.
3. Pre-approved scam
Speaking of this fraud, you get an email or letter announcing that you have become pre-approved for a bank loan, a credit card, and stuff. People who are financially struggling likely fall for this trap. It claims fast approval and enticing credit limits. The Wall Street Journal reveals that thieves are increasingly making use of the Covid-19 pandemic to scam people.
Since you apply, they ask you to pay an upfront fee. Remember: Credit card firms charge yearly fees, but they will never require you to pay them as you sign up.
To fight off this Internet scam, you should be careful about any offer with a 100% guarantee, mandatory processing fees, and requests for money transfers, payments in cash, etc.
4. Disaster relief scams
According to FEMA, disaster, be it the weather or pandemic-associated, comes along with fraudsters. Disguising as a real aid organization, these people will leverage a natural disaster and stuff to steal your money. Without knowing, you provide your e-payment info, say credit card, to give to that fake emergency relief fund.
5. Shopping scams
A multitude of fake websites gives ‘hot deals’ on reputable brands. These sites’ URLs tend to be just about the same as the brands they imitate, for instance, ‘Di0r.net.’ In case you purchase something from one of these sites, you will be likely to get a counterfeit thing or none at all.
Another shopping scam is Formjacking. It occurs as the website from a legitimate retailer gets hacked. That is when consumers become redirected to a payment page intended to deceive. Here, the hackers access your private and credit card info.
The best defense in such instances is double-checking that the website where you shopped and the payment page share the same URL. Scammers might alter the URL (super-duper slightly), perhaps by removing or adding a single letter. See to it that you look closely at the URL before entering your payment info.
6. Fake antivirus software/ Bad downloads
What do fake antivirus software pop-ups and ads do? They try to convince you that your computer experiences a virus infection or some and that you need to download their software to tackle the issue. This type of scam gets you in several ways:
- The scammers steal your credit card info. Some most dangerous banking malware families are Zbot/Zeus, Zeus Gameover, SpyEye, Shylock, DanaBot, TrickBot, Panda, GozNym, Kronos, and Bizzaro.
- They access your PC. It is subject to ransomware, malware, virus, or something instead of getting antivirus software installation when you hit the download link. The hackers can take advantage of the malware to steal your files, monitor your Internet activity, or deliver fake emails in your name.
We recommend being always cautious of pop-ups and ads that are difficult to close, or those that drive you to take action right away. See to it that you set up, update, and count on real antivirus software to minimize the scareware risk.
7. Travel scams
Cybercriminals sell phony coronavirus travel insurance policies that provide entitlement to the loss coverage for whatever reason and at no more charge. But the outcomes are purchasers do not receive the expected protection offered by these policies. Generally speaking, it is said that travel insurance policies do not cover claims owing to travel fear, travel advisories, government prohibitions, epidemics, or expected or known events.
A lot of travel insurance coverages are not applicable since coronavirus is a foreseen occurrence. The sole way of receiving coverage for these pandemic-associated losses is to purchase a CFAR (Cancel for Any Reason) policy right from a legitimate, trusted firm. Please keep in mind that these policies’ fees tend to be high compared to standard travel insurance policies.
But that is not all. Travel scams may happen on social media as well. The thieves post tempting pictures on Instagram, Twitter, or other platforms to dupe even the most clever travelers. Once you click the photo, which promises you free plane tickets or trips, you will get navigated to a survey rife that asks you to complete with private info. Else, you will be called forth to open your PC up to hidden malicious software.
Practically every main American air carrier, say Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines, and US Airways, has got invoked in a variety of online ‘free ticket’ giveaway frauds over the past years.
Learning from these scamming examples, you had better double-check that the social media page you visit is a legitimate account. Should there be a blue checkmark on the page name, it is the official page for the accredited airline firm. Further, every main airline and travel site should link right from their respective web pages to their social media accounts.
8. Grandparent scams
With this type, scammers pose as a freaking out grandchild in urgent need of money for paying a hospital bill, getting out of jail, and the likes of the situation. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, these people can make others believe in lies with more ease. For example, “I am hospitalized due to coronavirus. Please send some cash immediately.” According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), this kind of fraud sees an increase in prevalence, with over forty million USD in reported losses within 2018, up from more than 25 million USD in 2017.
The best defense in this case is:
- Resist the prompt to act right away: Fraudsters stir your emotions and depend on you to give a swift response before you have had the time to take stock.
- Decide whether the caller is who they say they are” Ask questions impossible to be answered by a stranger. Verify the story with your friends or other members of your company, even when the caller tells you not to reveal it to anyone else.
- Do not send gift cards, money, and then some.
9. Nigerian scams
They are also referred to as 419 fraud. Nigerian scams are among the most common Internet scams and there is a high chance that fraudsters have sent this one to your email. The scheme involving offering fees in advance is named after the Nigerian criminal code section that prohibits fraud. As per the report by the FBI, over 14,500 people fell for advance-fee frauds during 2019. Altogether, their loss was more than 100 million USD, or around $7,000 each.
More often than not, the fraudsters introduce themselves as a member of a super-rich West-African or Nigerian family, They contact you in person following their beloved’s death. They are finding a way to relocate a huge fortune out to another country for preserving it in safety. As such, they intend to transfer it into your bank account.
What is the catch? According to the Consumer Protection Division, they will ask you to help pay small fees at first for legal matters and papers. In return, they promise you a super-duper large amount of money. These scammers will be persistent and persuade you to give increasingly more money for extra services, say transfer costs. In some cases, the victims have even got papers used to convince them that it is for real. Eventually, you will become broke and receive none of the promised money. Here is an actual example of this online scam.
As uncovered by Google, thieves make use of the boost in coronavirus communications by sending legitimate Covid-19-related messages as their scam disguisement. Emails aside, they might contact you through malicious websites, automated calls, and text messages.
Typical types of this scam include:
- Fake nonprofit donation requests: A lot of people are interested in doing good deeds, say making charitable donations. Cybercriminals may take advantage of these people’s generosity by founding a fake organization and collecting funds. It is advisable not to click on a link sent to your email or phone but donate right through a trusted nonprofit’s website.
- Fraudulent financial offers: There is a possibility that thieves pose as investors, banks, and the likes of them with offers made to access your financial info.
- Bogus government sources: This scam has to do with entitlement to issue payments and updates on your local tax authority’s behalf.
- Websites selling fake goods: They sell high-demand items such as hand sanitizers and face masks that never arrive. We recommend purchasing products from reliable brands out there only.
- Fake health authorities: Thieves pose as WHO (World Health Organization) and other health organizations to provide tests or other coronavirus info.
11. Fake debt help
Those experiencing a period of bad luck might, in a breeze, fall victim to an email promising to help with their debt. This fraud claims to meet with creditors to either get rid of negative info from your credit report or settle or consolidate settle debts.
The FTC points out that these scams tend to charge consumers who lack sufficient money a considerable advance fee, yet afterward do not help them reduce or settle their debts.
The best advice is to avoid any debt-relief firm that requires up-front fees before settling debts. Also, stay away from any enterprise claiming its ability to lower or get rid of your debt by a certain amount by a specific date.
Do your homework about debt-relief services you are thinking about using. We recommend checking with your local consumer protection bureau and chief law officer to have a better idea of the firm’s reliability.
12. Fake lotteries
Congratulations! You are today’s lottery winner! This scam email shows up in your inbox all of a sudden and often introduces itself as part of global sweepstakes. The matter is the scammer emphasizes that you need to pay a fee in advance or to reach someone in charge of processing your winnings.
A real-time example of this fraud is the case of a retired man Lee Willaims. The scamming firm worked to make this poor guy believe about his winning a million-dollar lottery. To receive that prize, they asked him to pay about half a million dollars.
What can you do to steer clear of this Internet scam? Unless you have entered a lottery from a legit, you are least likely to hit the jackpot. Should you be a lottery winner, please get in touch with the legit retailer, absolutely NOT the other way around.
13. Counterfeit money transfer or check
Do you list something on some auction website? Then does the winning bidder declare to pay you higher than the purchase price offered through personal or corporate check? Please bear in mind that once you get the fraudster’s fake check, you may be conned into using bank wire to deliver the difference back. When the counterfeit check bounces, you will have no other choice but send the in-full payment back to the bank.
So, we suggest never accepting payment for a higher amount than the selling price. Likewise, it is advisable to choose a secure online payment form, for instance, PayPal to prevent fraudsters.
14. Romance and dating scams
The Internet becomes an integral part of your social life. With Instagram, Facebook, and other applications you visit daily, using them to find your future life partners is inevitable. Indeed, online dating and romance applications are super popular currently and a fantastic way of meeting your love.
While there are happy ending stories, you should be wary. Never do you know who you likely meet. This Internet scam tends to happen on social media platforms, dating networks, or through emailing the potential targets. Most of the time, the male fraudsters come from West Africa. Meanwhile, the female ones are usually from Europe’s Eastern parts.
These people will initially build a relationship with you. Over time, they begin asking you to help them with some money. The chance is you will be enticed to do because you grow in love with them. As per a study by the British Journal of Criminology, the fraud methods employed by scammers in Internet dating and romance frauds are just about the same as those applied in domestic violence cases.
How to keep away from falling for these Internet scams? No matter what happens, do not give money to anyone you have not met in person. Likewise, we suggest you check out the real stories and draw a lesson from them. This, this, and this.
All in all
Internet scams have been improving in techniques and increased in success rate. It is sad to say but millions have become their victim.
Some frauds lead to credibility loss and small damage. Many of you may have acquaintances who sent you a lot of ‘beware’ emails that you do not believe anything they forward anymore.
Meanwhile, others are much more devastating. A few frauds work so seamlessly that their variations are unlimited, with some details altered from time to time to make them stay fresh.
That is why you are always advised to check out the common online scams mentioned above to have a better clue about them and how to avoid being conned at all costs.