The internet has improved our lives in so many ways, but it has come with a few footnotes of caution being required. One of these is the potential to get scammed, with more and more people falling foul of online scams by the month, and scammers getting more creative with their methods.
It’s surprisingly easy to fall for a scam, and there’s no shame attached if it happens to you. However, there is a lot you can do to wise up to the scams and try to ensure you, and your family members, don’t fall for the scams.
What Are Online Scams?
Online scams come in a variety of forms. To put it simply, they are a type of fraud, where people try to sell you an offer or promotion or promise you a product or service, but use this to steal your cash or your personal information.
Scams can be as complex as fake websites designed to look like they are selling you a product, or as simple as online questionnaires that look to be legitimate but are actually not protecting your information.
They may use this to take money through a fake payment platform, or they could just steal your personal information which can be used for all manner of things including identity fraud, and taking out lending in your name, which can be disastrous.
How Do Online Scams Occur?
Some people think that online scams tend to only happen to the elderly, and perceive older people as less capable of spotting a scam. Other studies actually claims that the opposite is true, possibly because millennials and young people spend more time online.
The truth is that nobody should think they are beyond getting scammed. Criminals like these can be incredibly good at what they do. Online scams usually involve some sort of “bait” or pretending to be someone else, or a representative of a company you have had dealings with.
You might receive an email claiming to be from your bank, for example. Scammers might go to extreme lengths to get past your email spam filters and create custom graphics, even stealing the logo of the bank to look legitimate. This makes it easy to fall for.
Bait may come in the form of offers that look too good to be true, or fake websites that look legitimate, allowing you to spend your money on a product that is never actually going to arrive.
A lot of people find it scary that this bait might not even be in the form of an offer, or a financial transaction. You might just get bored and fill in a questionnaire or enter a competition. This might cause you to become the victim of a scam due to the fact that you have given away a lot of personal details.
These sorts of questions might seem innocent, but actually scammers are trying to get enough information to take out lending in your name, for example.
Even if you think you might never have any risk of getting scammed, you might suddenly be starting to worry about competitions you have entered or times when you might have been scammed.
In the year of 2018, “internet-enabled theft, fraud, and exploitation were responsible for a massive $2.7 billion in financial losses”. That’s an incredible amount of money.
Why Online Scams Are a Continued, Growing Concern
When you hear about online scams, you might think of some of the scams that have been around for decades. Most of us know not to trust these scams, and many of them get caught by spam filters on your email accounts.
If you get an email from someone telling you that you have inherited $10 million but you need to pay them a small fee first, you will probably know that alarm bells should be ringing at this stage.
That said, online scams are not getting eradicated as we wise up. In fact, the opposite might be true. Scammers keep getting more and more sophisticated and coming up with new ways to appear legitimate, and this is why people keep falling for it.
Most scammers aren’t just trying to make a quick buck, they are actually looking to steal your data and use this for long-term gain. Some types of phishing, the primary target is to steal data, rather than to steal a credit card number.
People also get targeted because of the positions they hold within a certain business. This is called “spear-phishing” when a group specifically finds one employee that they think of as a target.
Maybe they work remotely, and have access to specific details of a big corporation. This kind of sophisticated and targeted attack may even involve scammers posing as contacts from other businesses to try and get the trust of the target.
Another reason why this is such a growing concern is the number of accounts most people now have. A study by Dashlane found that the average email account has 130 different accounts attached to it. That’s a lot of websites that could potentially be a security threat to your personal information.
If you get scammed individually then it is definitely an issue, but for some companies who have seen huge data breaches, they might be responsible for thousands of email accounts and sets of personal details, leading to legal action and huge fines for not keeping peoples’ data safe.
Once scammers have access to your details they often sell them on the black market, helping them to separate themself from a crime, and serving to maximize the amount of money they can make.
If your details are stolen in this way, you might find that loan and credit applications are being taken out in your name, ruining your credit score or even leaving you to have to deal with debt collectors for money you never actually used.
It is very important to make clear just how much of an issue this can be.
Different Types of Online Scam
As we’ve already stated, there are so many types of scam out there that people can easily get caught out by. Below, we’ve listed just some of the most common online methods of scamming people, to allow you to fully understand but also look out for some of the scams that people look to pull off.
Some of these things can seem really innocent at first, which is proof that you need to keep your guard up online.
Types of online scams:
- Giveaways. If you come across a promotional giveaway asking you to put in your details for the chance to win a prize, don’t assume that it is real. You need to check, and avoid putting personal details into a form that might be from a scammer rather than a company offering you something for free.
- Quizzes. Even an innocent quiz can be a chance for someone to collect your personal data. Something you see on social media that seems like a bit of fun might be out to trick you.
- Surveys. You might receive an email from a company asking for your opinion on something. This might come twinned with the promise of winning something. There is a chance that this is a way for scammers to try and steal your details.
- eCommerce. Buying something online has been a pitfall for a number of years. If you see an ad for a very cheap product on social media or get a cold email offering you crazy prices, the chances are that it is someone trying to scam you. They might send you through a fake checkout, and through this they can steal card details or steal personal information and passwords.
- Phishing. Phishing is still incredibly common and has just become a lot more sophisticated in recent years. Most people can spot an email in broken English asking for cash, but plenty of people still get conned daily by phishing scams.
These scams are especially harmful for marketers and promoters, why? Well because many people use email marketing, giveaways, or even surveys to increase their sales. ECommerce itself is self explanatory.
These are very harmful for marketers and it delegitimize their work where people stop trusting them, even if they are as honest as they come. Hence, it is also important for marketers whether on Instagram, Gmail, or Facebook to have a clear marketing plan that would earn the trust of their consumers.
Moreover, this is extra harmful for ecommerce marketers.You can use the best tools and tricks to generate leads for your ecommerce store. Still, if you lose your legitimacy, no one will shop from you.
Tips and Tools to Prevent Scams
There are a few things that you can do in order to try and prevent scams from happening to you. Though there’s always a risk, increasing your knowledge and even installing some tools might be an effective way to keep yourself safe.
- Check that a site is secure. Most browsers will now show a padlock sign in the URL bar, or next to it, which shows that a website has a security certificate. This isn’t the only sign of something being safe, but it is a good indicator.
- Never visit a link from a bank that gets emailed to you. If your bank wants to tell you about a statement or a new offer, go to their website and find the information there, if you follow a link from a fake email you might find that you are heading to a scam or clone site.
- Get an identity monitoring service to check. Online identity monitoring can alert you if there is a breach of data or your name appears on the back market. This is a way to check that your data is not at risk and the monitoring is done regularly to ensure that you have peace of mind.
- Ensure your email account has a spam filter. This is common, and if you have a Microsoft or Google issued email account you can benefit from the fact these companies have spent a lot of time improving their spam systems and can catch a lot of the potentially harmful emails. If you have your own domain and set up an email account with a webmail reader then this might not be the case, and the spam filter might not be as high quality.
- Get a trusted antivirus. This is something to be wary of. Opt for one of the household names of antivirus, as there are programs that pose as free antivirus but actually do the opposite and install malware on your computer. This is an example of what a difficult task staying safe can actually be.
- Be wary when you are asked to fill in personal details. The vast majority of your online dealings don’t require personal details like passwords or even your address. Be really careful about who you give these out to.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is one of the golden rules. If you get an email promising you the love of your life or a million dollars without you having to do anything, don’t get led astray. Some people find these promises of a drastic change in their life are truly irresistible, but sadly it is incredibly unlikely that someone will email you and give you huge sums of cash. Think about their motives.
- Be careful with attachments. Once you open an attachment it might be able to run scripts or perform invasive functions on your website. This can be a huge problem, so only open attachments from people you truly trust. Better still, talk to the person and see if they meant to send it.
- Use multi system authentication. Very simple yet very effective. Often hackers get a hold of your password. However, once they try to enter your social account, they encounter another security measure. Hence, whether you want to make an account on gmail or on Woorise. Be sure to use multi factor authentication.
Just because you can spot the obvious scams out there, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a scam with your name on it somewhere on the internet. Everybody using email and logging in on websites needs to be incredibly cautious.
Online scams are a huge criminal enterprise, with people making huge sums of money from stealing your data and selling it on, or taking money directly from your accounts.
While you don’t need to worry if you do take precautions, it is worth educating yourself on the best tips and tools to prevent the online scams that so many people experience on a daily basis, and make sure you don’t become one of the many cautionary tales.