Curious about Online Scams? Don’t worry, you’re getting the lowdown about them today. From Tibet to Timbuktu, the vast majority of the world’s adults have some kind of online presence.
Even the savviest and most technologically-aware of these Internet users can be scammed by online con artists who are experts in figuring out how to trick people into divulging information that will eventually allow the scammer to access the person’s identity, government ID, bank data and other personal information.
Even if you only check your email once a day, post rarely on your social media and play Thunderbolt online casino games infrequently and under high security settings, you can be vulnerable to those who will try to cheat and swindle you by gaining your trust and relying on your inherent belief that “it will be OK.”
Some of the biggest online scams of the third decade of the 21st century to watch for include:
Phishing is one of the most common forms of online scams. Phishing involves the scammer’s attempt to get the user to give over their information – passwords, bank information, etc.
Phishing is generally done via email. An email could contain a request for you to submit your password for a site, thereby giving your password to the scammer. For instance, you might get an email from your bank, a government office or from Amazon saying “your password has been compromised. Click on THIS LINK to reset your password.”
The link of course, is not a direct link to your bank, to the government office or to Amazon but rather is a link to the scammer’s website. The site might then say something like “submit your existing password to confirm your ownership of the account…….and then, choose a new password.”
The old password that you submit is your existing government/bank/Amazon password which gives the scammer access to your Amazon account where, likely, your credit card information is stored. From there the scammer can start ordering items, collect your credit card data for other uses, etc.
A few years ago there was a Google Docs phishing scam and it reappears from time to time. The scam involved sending the recipient a Google Doc from someone in his/her contacts – generally a contact whose account had already been compromised.
The recipient was then invited to edit the document – but, when the recipient opens the document his/her email becomes accessible to a third-party. Other sensitive information that may be stored in the recipient’s Google account also becomes accessible to the hacker.
In general, if you get an email that asks for you to submit any type of personal information, including a password, treat it as highly suspect. In fact, any email that asks you to “click on a link” should be treated as a possible scam.
Shopping scams are completely random. They say that they sell products but after you place your order and they collect the money, you’ll never see them again. You might see these companies advertising on social media or you may receive emails from them but the one thing that they have in common is that they direct you to a third-party eCommerce store. They offer items at ridiculously low prices which is the first thing that should give you a hint that something is wrong.
Some people simply lose the money that they paid for the item. Others find that the scammers are using the credit card information that they sent to withdraw more funds.
This is where a review site is useful. Many small companies sell their products legitimately online so just because you are considering buying via an online company, that’s no reason to assume that it’s a scam. But check the company’s reviews to make sure that you’re dealing with a reputable company that will make sure that you receive the items that you purchase.
3. Social Media
Scamming abounds on social media where scammers find vulnerable people who are looking for friendship or love and use their vulnerability to convince them to send money. These scams are called “Nigeria scams” because, although the scammers operate from many areas of the world, the center of such scams seems to be Nigeria.
Investigators tell of large rooms with dozens of cubicles where tens of scammers work 24/7, reaching out to people that they “meet” online, telling their sob stories (a military advisor caught in a war-torn country, a father waiting for a lung transplant for his child, etc) and finding ways to convince the contacts to wire them funds.
Often, these stories carry with them the promise of great rewards – the military man’s pension will be waiting for him and his new partner, an inheritance just needs to be released through a lawyer’s efforts which will then be shared, etc. Just remember, the chances of any of this being real are close to zero so act accordingly.
4. Digital Kidnapping
Digital kidnapping is one of the reasons that people are warned to make sure that they use complicated and unique passwords for all of their main accounts. Once a hacker gets ahold of your social media account, they “become you” and message your friends and family, asking, as if they were you, for funds to be sent.
In some cases the hacker holds your account for ransom and promises to send out fake updates, in your name, which can show you in a bad light – even compromising photos that will be said to be you or accounts of incidents that make you look bad.
Tech experts suggest that if such a thing happens to you, your best solution is to contact the social media company and ask to have them reset your account. You may have to jump through hoops to prove that you are who you say you are but in the end, it’s worth the effort.
Watch this space for updates in the Hacks category on Running Wolf’s Rant.