Scammers of today likely model their techniques based on telephone scams prevalent for nearly as long as telephones have been around. Back in the ’80s and especially the ’90s, before the Internet was introduced to households worldwide, there was a wide range of popular telephone scams. The autodialer is a technology that was born from calling card fraud and there were multiple schemes involving the defrauding of consumers.
Phone scams, like non-delivery and non-payment for goods scams, remain as popular today as they did in the past. Back then, scam artists had to be effective through one channel – voice. Scams over the phone require interaction and a possible confrontation with a victim. While there are newer phone scam variations used today like the Microsoft IT scam, the real threat now comes from the Internet. Nowadays, they use channels like social media, email, messenger, or SMS to gain people’s trust, frighten, or deceive them. Many scammers never have to speak to their victims. Online scams don’t require interaction with the victim and have been known to range from being very crafty to painfully obvious. In order to protect yourself from scams, you need to be up to date on the newest warning signs.
Types of Internet Scams
When it comes to common scams, there are some more or less typical tell-tale signs that someone is targeting you. Before we present you with some of them, let’s first revise what type of scam a person can run into. Sadly, there are plenty.
You are probably aware of the most common scams: Social Security, IRS, or the Microsoft IT scams. These are pretty much self-explanatory, and they share many similar traits with other types of scams. Those traits are related to psychological tactics that scam artists are well-versed in using against people. They involve playing on people’s softer side or preying on their fears, but most often they count on desires, greed, or vanity. This could lead someone to give money to romance scammers, donate to fake charities, become a victim of identity theft, or get involved in a Ponzi scheme.
More Obscure Scams
Some of the more obscure types of scams involve various other amenities, benefits, or privileges. For example, a technical support scam would likely involve contacting you over the phone in an effort to get you to upgrade your software or clean your computer. This would then be remote desktop software from which they can remotely access and control your computer and install malware or a remote access trojan so that they can steal personal details and bank account details. A PuppySpot scam tries to play the emotional side of potential pet owners to get them to pay outrageous sums of money for a “teacup” or purebred animal. It’s sad but true – people have lost lots of money trying to add a rare breed puppy to their family. There are also scams targeting those with philanthropic organizations, various charities, and volunteer opportunities that cost people money and time, and sometimes end up involving them in pyramid schemes.
Nigerian Prince Scam
Your bank account information could also be jeopardized with investment scams or through something called Nigerian scams. A Nigerian scam, or the 419 scam, is a famous example of contacting a person online, usually via email, to get them to help move funds across the border faster without red tape. The 419 comes from the section of Nigerian criminal code dealing with this specific scam. This person is then supposed to pay the helper a finder’s fee. The usual form of this scam is that they’re a Prince, Finance Minister, or a Bank employee that is aware of large sums of money from the death of a public figure or other Ministry official. They’re usually looking for a family member or someone that can pose as the family member to get the funds free. They’ll likely offer a huge windfall opportunity in return for a small money transfer from you and your bank account information. Here’s an article providing a deeper insight into what is also known as the Nigerian Prince email scam. This is also known as an advance-fee scam where the scammer asks you to pay a fee in order to receive the reward or money they’re offering.
Email scams, unfortunately, don’t end there. Scam artists usually present themselves as figures of higher authority (hence the Prince), but they can also present themselves as a successful executive in a corporation, part of the secret service, or a General in the military. If you’re asking yourself why someone would use these authoritarian figures rather than anything else, it’s because they are trying to invoke immediate trust or cover their tracks by asking you for confidentiality. They may also pose as a company you trust or a website you use. These types of scams are known as phishing scams, and they are trying to rob you of your personal data or credit and debit card details to steal your money, identity, or health insurance.
If you suspect you might be under a phishing attack, there are certain steps to ensure that nothing comes of it. In this, and any other type of unsolicited email correspondence, be sure to not reveal any financial information or account information. To ensure technical data protection, install security software like antivirus, antimalware, and a password manager (it’s best to use two: one on your computer and another on your phone). You should also enable your computer’s personal firewall if it has one. It’s a good idea to do research on online security and safer social networking using Consumer Affinity’s Community platform, Split®, as there are instances where we share some personal details unknowingly.
The best way to recognize phishing emails and avoid scams is to look for these scam indicators:
- Check the source of the email, where links point and don’t download or run attachments until you verify the sender.
- Use of certain buzzwords or jargon, along with obvious spelling and grammatical mistakes. Some phishing emails sound off, and not just with what they offer. That being said, you should be careful because many phishers are using proper spelling and grammar.
- Most deceitful emails will try to intensify their approach. Scam artists will try to give you the impression that you must act now, or they will cease the offer.
- The promise of huge profits, free prizes, and money is an obvious red flag. This approach is ‘something for nothing,’ from the premise that someone will reward you somehow, even if you didn’t do anything. This ‘nothing’ part can also refer to a small wire transfer as a voucher for huge investment opportunities later on. The truth is, no one is going around giving away money unsolicited.
- The pretense of confidentiality is another approach we mentioned. In order to sell a lie better or discourage people from questioning them, scammers sometimes invent very confidential circumstances. These will likely ask you to send a money transfer for another powerful figure under the guise that you’re helping your government.
- They use this confidentiality and authority of government agencies because they feel it adds to the story they are trying to sell. However, you should keep in mind that there is no such practice of wiring money to federal agencies in real life.
- Asking for personal information is another red flag that will help you avoid phishing scams. There is no reason for anyone to have your social security number apart from you. A huge part of online safety is keeping sensitive information to yourself. It’s similar to a typical scam call, where someone pretending to represent a company whose services you use asks for consumer information. Avoid these calls and turn to consumer protection services.
Some might say it’s easy to recognize and prevent scams. Some might argue that scams can be very believable and well-presented, but we will conclude that it might take some research into common scams using our Community platform, Split® to avoid becoming a part of one in the future. Apart from the knowledge of how they work, you might also need to consider improving your cybersecurity. We could all benefit from antivirus and firewall protection, especially when going online shopping and using services of online banking. Being armed with knowledge and information is one of your best defenses.