Scams come in different forms and patterns. Anyone can fall for it, especially online. Con artists defraud millions of people around the globe resulting in major financial losses and emotional trauma. As a regular Internet user, you should know how to avoid a scam and the most common ones.
Types of Scams
They are also called phone scams. People easily lose money ranging from a few dollars to their entire life savings. Telemarketing scammers are very cunning. They create non-existent websites and provide you with all kinds of information to gain your trust. They also try to lure people into their trap by offering lucrative benefits and unbelievable facilities like:
- Free shipment and delivery.
- Winning money without playing the lottery in a foreign country.
- Exaggerated business investments.
- Insanely low-cost travel packages.
- Free trial offers.
Frauds taking place over the phone rely on the scammers’ good communication skills and on people’s error of judgment when it comes to monetary issues.
Some scammers use robocalls (pre-recorded calls) to try and defraud unsuspecting customers.
A phishing scam is a method that uses the impersonation of a trustworthy company or organization to trick you into providing your personal information like your national ID number, your credit card number or your home address. It could be in the form of an email, a pop-up notification or a text box that appears while you are surfing the internet. It could also be a message that asks you to verify your login information to your bank account or e-commerce accounts (e.g. Paypal).
Online Dating Scams
This is the most common form. It has become a global problem due to the massive spread of online dating websites, social networks and chatrooms that facilitate having a relationship with someone outside your social circle. According to StatisticBrain.com, over 41 million Americans have tried online dating websites (2014).
Online dating scammers forge online romantic relationships and urge people to send money (or valuable information like your credit card number) in the name of love. They immediately urge the person they are chatting with to leave the website and start an intimate conversation via email or IM. This is one of the earliest signs that you are being defrauded, so beware.
They are also called fake check scams, money transfer scams, Western Union scams, or MoneyGram scams. Many of them seem legitimate enough for people to fall prey to them.
The most common forms are:
- Promises of payment for the selling of certain goods only after everything is sold.
- Transfer of money to addresses overseas where it is impossible to reverse the transfer, trace the recipient, track the money or trace it.
- Providing money in the form of a check that has to be deposited to an account with funds returned to the first party.
- Entrance into a business contract (jammed with complicated legal jargon) without fully explaining the details.
How to Avoid Different Forms of Scam
- Always know who you are dealing with: research any company that offers you discounts or splendid bargains, and ask the seller you are dealing with to give you their telephone number and physical address.
- Read your monthly bank and credit card statements carefully: scammers always depend on the fact that people rarely check these and start spending money using your credit card information. It could take them months before you notice what happened.
- Donate only to established charities with physical addresses and a legitimate, official website.
- Report online frauds: there are various entities worldwide where you can officially report internet hustles. In the U.S., the most popular websites are Federal Trade Commission where you can seek their special features: National Identity Theft report portal and National Do Not Call Registry and your state Attorney General.
- When getting a call from a telemarketer or receiving an email from an online seller, always ask the following questions: Who are you? Why are you calling me? How did you know my number/email? Why do I have to give out my account information? Why are you speaking so fast?
- Never give out your credit card or social security numbers to anybody.
- Don’t transfer money to strangers online.
- Resist pressure to give out your information or make an immediate purchasing decision.
- Don’t play a foreign lottery.
- Don’t open emails in the spam folder of your inbox.
- Don’t agree to deposit a check and wire money back.
- Don’t become tempted by “free gifts” to buy products that you don’t need. Most of these gifts turn out to be useless.
- Block robocalls.