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Falling victim to online scams isn’t a rare thing thanks to the expansion of the criminal domain into the digital world. Today, we are all more susceptible to them than ever before. There are new ones cropping up, and some scams that have evolved or changed over time.
Keeping up with the latest cons is the surest way to protect yourself from falling victim to them.
Here Are 7 Online Scams You Need To Know
1) Emails from an unknown source.
Not recognizing the sender is an obvious way to pick out these emails. After all, an urgent note from the Crown Prince of Country X, a person with whom you are not actually acquainted, should be deleted without a backward glance.
But what about an email from Paypal or eBay?
Hackers will use big names in the “sent from” section of emails to gain your trust. If you open the email and aren’t sure of its validity, just click on the name in the “sent from” box to view the actual email address. If it’s legitimate, you will probably recognize the address. If you don’t recognize the sender, your best bet is to NOT open the email at all.
Most importantly, NEVER click on a link or attachment within an email that you’re unsure about.
This is how hackers insert Malware on your computer and are able to access your personal information. Instead, log in to your account. Any relevant information would also be available there. If not, pick up the phone and call the institution in question.
An email that makes an offer that is too good to be true—think “You have just won $5 million dollars!” —is probably is. Be wary of links in emails that boast an unbelievable offer or tell you that you have won a prize.
It could be malware out to steal your personal security information. Like what? Malware can track your login and password information when you, for example, log into your banking website later on.
Another way email is used in online scams is what is known as CEO eMail phishing scam. This is where an employee receives an email from the president of the company, requesting that they provide certain sensitive information to another person or send money via wire transfer to complete a transaction.
The email address will often look legitimate and a junior employee might, thanks to the notion of corporate culture and a sense of obedience, simply act on the request without questioning it further. This may seem to be an unlikely scenario, but the reality, this scam has worked on employees of some of the largest tech companies.
Online tax software phishing emails are a newer emerging tax season threat executed by con artists. These scammers send phishing emails with copies of logos from mainstream online tax providers. They are looking for you to part with your social security number and other key pieces of information. They are also trying to infect your computer with malware.
As above, your best bet is to not open any emails or click on any links that you’re NOT 100 percent sure about!
2) Online shopping on public Wi-Fi.
Tempting as it may be to sit at the local coffee shop and sip latte while doing all your holiday shopping, the internet connections in these public locations are often NOT secure.
That means that someone can be scanning the activity on the network and access your personal information – and indeed – anything on your device. It’s okay to do a little ‘window shopping’ online. But for a financial transaction, wait until you are hooked to a secured internet connection.
Using PayPal to pay for your purchases online is a good way to protect your credit card information. All reputable online shopping sites will have secured checkouts. But the fewer times you provide your credit card information online, the less chances there will be that it could be stolen.
3) Online dating scams.
The perils of online dating aren’t just restricted to the horror of a bad first date. Very often, people will interact online for a period of time before making the decision to meet face to face. It is in this period of online chatting that the scammers can invade.
Don’t hesitate to search them out on Google or via a background checking service. Almost everyone has some kind of digital footprint and that can help you to decide if they are legitimate or simply part of online scams.
Here are a few things to be wary of when you meet someone online:
- If they ask you for money early on in the online relationship or enquire a lot about your financial status, you should have a BIG red flag waving in your mind.
- Don’t be swayed by sad stories of sick parents or rent being due when their company just laid everyone off.
- Do a search on their profile image in Google—if you see the same image in random places, it’s your clue that this person could be lying about their identity.
- Is their profile blank or they only have one picture up? It could be a sign of a scammer who doesn’t want to put too much information up.
- Are they refusing to meet with you because they are currently out of the country or otherwise unavailable? This too, is a red flag.
Are they claiming that they know several famous people and can introduce you? Red flag.
4) Fake tax refund ID theft scams.
An identity thief that has gotten hold of social security numbers can file fraudulent tax returns and get a large tax refund. Paperless e-filing and online tax software has actually made it easier for this type of scam to snowball.
While that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use these online systems to file your taxes, you need to be sure that you are always logging in to the sites directly, versus via a link, and that you are using a secure internet connection.
Watch your mail for your W2’s to arrive. If they’re not delivered in a timely manner, start getting to the bottom of where they went in case they were falsely filed.
5) Ransom notes.
In the world of online scams, ransom notes aren’t the oddly worded message about a loved one being held hostage, but rather it is your computer and all your files that are being held hostage. Ransomware is a type of software that computer hackers use to hold your data hostage.
How? By blocking access to files unless you agree to pay a ransom. The hackers encrypt your files and hold them for ransom until you pay a fee that could be upwards of $500 or more, paid to an untraceable Bitcoin account.
These Ransomware attacks have not only happened to individuals, but also to schools and businesses. Do NOT pay the fees and report it directly to law enforcement. You can help protect yourself from a hack like this by backing up your files and deleting files from your computer that may have sensitive information, such as copies of your taxes.
6) Pre-approved Credit Card online scams.
Money is tight for a lot of people right now and with the holidays coming up. Some might be tempted by a pre-approved credit card email offering a low interest rate or a loan with a high credit limit. All you have to do is click the link and pay the annual fee up front. No problem, right?
Wrong. You will most likely never hear from them again because there was never a credit card or loan. They’ve got your annual fee and possibly your personal information. Word to the wise, only accept credit cards and loans through reputable banks and credit card companies.
7) Scams that prey on the elderly.
Scammers and hackers prey on those members of society who are most vulnerable to fraud. One key group is the elderly.
They are the least aware of the current online scams and can, if caught in one, fear sharing that information with others out of desire NOT to reveal that they were duped. It only takes one lapse of confusion for your elderly parents or grandparents to make a costly mistake. What can you do?
Inform your relatives about common scam practices. Help them to understand the importance of digital security. Encourage them to change their passwords regularly. Tell them about large companies falling prey to scams: in the event that it DOES happen to them, they don’t need to feel like they have to hide it.
The online world has opened up many opportunities for business and other wondrous ways for people to interact with one another. But as with any opportunity to interact, there will be those who will take advantage of it for their own gain. Awareness is critical in the battle against online scams.
Stay informed of the latest online scams and share the information with neighbors, friends, seniors, and even on social media so that the potential impact of any given scam is limited. If you suspect you’ve been targeted, contact local authorities and your financial institution right away.