Unfortunately, there are people in the world that make a living by stealing money from those who worked hard to earn it. Scams used to happen on the streets, where people are on alert. Today they happen more and more online and via phone calls. It can be easy to let your guard down when you’re on your phone at home. Scammers rely on this and use any means necessary to make a profit. Statistics show that around 50% of people contacted by a scammer engage with them. Of those approached by scammers on social media, 91% engaged and 53% lost money. Understanding the following common scams is a great way to help avoid falling for them.
The Most Common Internet Scams
Make sure to check Part I on popular internet scams such as Click to Donate $1, Is This You NAKED? 90% Off Everything, You Have Won $1,000,000 and romance.
“You’ve been paid! Click here.” – PayPal Scams
PayPal has a reputation for being a safe way to shop online. They are great at resolving issues if you buy something from fake stores, which is why many people chose to pay through PayPal whenever possible.
Unfortunately, scammers have caught on and it is now common to use this trusted platform to steal from people.
One common PayPal scam is when someone sends an email pretending to be a PayPal official.
These people will ask for your information or potentially send you links that will give you a virus.
It is important to keep in mind that no company will ask you for your login information or any other personal details over email or over the phone.
PayPal has a comprehensive page on recognizing common scams where they outline the possibilities.
They recommend checking to see if the email that is contacting you is a legitimate PayPal account.
You can do this by hitting reply and checking the email address.
In regards to links, they suggest hovering over them before clicking to see if they really are to a PayPal website.
If you see anything suspicious, make sure to email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you forward them the email, or just the address that contacted you with screenshots, they can work on getting it shut down.
Some of the most common scams that they see include emails that say: your account is about to be suspended, you’ve been paid, and you’ve been paid too much. Never click on any link before verifying that it really is from PayPal.
“We need your card number.” – Banking Scams
Banking scams are incredibly popular and there are many ways that they can happen. It is important to understand that if the bank ever does contact you, they might verify your address and birthday.
They do not, however, ask for any passwords, card numbers or other private information.
More recently they also tend to send you important messages and announcements directly through their banking app for extra safety.
Common banking scams include phone calls where someone pretends to be your bank and tries to verify vulnerable information.
This is generally regarded as phishing. It is also possible for someone to ask for a payment for something that ends up turning into an automatic payment from your debit account.
It may be a small amount that you don’t even notice, but it’s still your hard-earned money and it will become significant over time.
Finally, some scammers will send an unsolicited check and cashing it may sign you up for a loan or authorize an item purchase that you didn’t ask for.
Banking scams are serious and even an attempt should be reported immediately. First, contact your bank and tell them what happened.
They may have a procedure to help protect your account, such as unauthorizing automatic withdrawals. Then, it is also a good idea to contact the government.
If you are in the USA, go to the government website and find the proper way to report the scam based on how you received it.
Every country has their own authority that you can report these scams to.
“Invest $1,000 and make $10,000 risk-free!” – Investment Scam
A scam that’s been growing in popularity involves people asking you to invest some money with the promise of a high, risk-free return. Statistics show that more than 30 million people fall for these types of scams every single year.
They usually come via email and make a lot of impossible promises and potentially include dangerous links too.
People who make money from investments have never succeeded by clicking on a random email. There are no easy or quick ways to invest.
So any email that promises you a get-rich-quick scheme is completely false.
You can keep yourself safe by verifying credentials any time you see a potential investment. Investment professionals need to be registered. In the USA, you can check on this using FINRA BrokerCheck.
Most countries haslve their own registry where you can confirm that you are dealing with legitimate investors.
Also, simply think it through before acting on anything. Don’t believe the ‘everyone is doing it’ stories and understand that risk-free investments simply don’t exist.
Never let anyone rush you or make you feel obligated to make the investment.
Limited time offers should always raise red flags and a gift or freebie isn’t worth financial loss in the long run.
Investment scams are serious and need to be reported to the police. Depending on the country you are in, you should also report them to the correct authority as well.
In the USA, this would be the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint. Make sure to notify your friends and loved ones as well.
If you received the investment scam via email or social media, people you know may have seen or received the same thing and they should be warned.
“Sell this, recruit others, get rich!” – Pyramid Scheme
Pyramid schemes have always been around and it is important to know a few things about them.
They are illegal, risky, and they always fail.
While it is possible to make some money if you are lucky, you will not get rich doing it. You will likely end up losing money and potentially getting into legal trouble.
Pyramid schemes are common and often advertised on websites where people are looking for jobs. Scammers will refer to it as marketing and sales, or another name.
A pyramid scheme involves buying a service/product, selling it, and recruiting others to do the same. You earn a percent of what your recruiters make and they can recruit others to make you even more.
There are several red flags to look out for if you encounter one of these “job opportunities” include big up-front costs or selling goods that have doubtful value, such as information sheets.
If the promoter says things like ‘this is not a pyramid scheme,’ it probably is.
It can be hard to report pyramid schemes. If it was easy to get them shut down, there wouldn’t be so many out there.
You can report these to your local government or even a special website to report scams in your country.
In the USA you can do this on USA.gov.
Even if reporting a scam seems hopeless and won’t help you get your money back, you should still do it every time. It could help someone in the future avoid similar issues.
“Your great uncle died in Zimbabwe and left you $1,000,000.” – Dead Relative Scam
The dead relative internet scams has been around for a long time but has recently grown in popularity.
Basically, the scammer finds out information about you, such as your parents’ names, and they spin them into a story.
I personally received one a few weeks ago where they incorrectly used my dad’s first name as a last name and said that my great uncle died in a car crash near Paris.
This unknown relative was, of course, really rich and they were trying to find someone to give their inheritance to.
It is important to understand that things like this may happen in movies, but not in real life.
If someone related to you died and you never met them, they probably have a will that specifies giving their money to people they actually know.
If this were somehow to happen for real (if you are adopted, for example), inheritance information would come to you through a law office, and probably not through an email.
Make sure not to click on any links sent in these emails. They could lead to malware being installed on your computer.
You should block the senders and if you did click on a link, tell your friends and family to watch out for them. You should also alert your local government.
Even if alerting the authorities doesn’t shut it down, they may be able to add it to a list of ongoing scams that will help keep others safe.
Photos: Shutterstock / Edited by: Martina Advaney
There are many internet scams out there and it can be easy to fall for them. It is important to keep yourself safe by avoiding strange links.
You should also double-check any suspicious emails or calls with your bank, PayPal, etc.
As amazing as free money, investments or too good-to-be-true job opportunities sound, they are likely fake. Here are more articles on cybersecurity and common internet scams:
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