Tips for Thought

Protecting Yourself Against Online Scammers

The internet is an incredible yet dangerous innovation. When used ethically, it can provide real-time information and help bring people together worldwide in record time. However, other users can use the internet for other means, which can be malicious and dangerous.

One such example of the latter is online scams. Online scams are generally any supposed businesses that take place on the internet. Many claims to provide products or services that “work” but either don’t or use fraudulent means to extort money and information, leaving the victim losing valuables and their identities.

What Are Some Common Internet Scams?

There are many forms of online scams; some people who operate them contact victims through emails, social networking sites, and even dating apps.

Here are some of the most common online scams, according to experts:

1. Online shopping scams.

The internet has made shopping a lot more accessible than ever before. Whether you’re looking for books, clothes, and even appliances—there are countless options for shopping.

However, some poorly-made online stores or fake online shops also entice people into revealing their credit card information. This scam can lead to the unauthorized use of the victim’s card, and even if the shop delivers something to the customer, the item will be poorly made or completely useless.

2. Tech support scams.

Tech support scams operate because the users know the ins and outs of the product in which they provide support. Many of these users want you to believe there’s a severe problem with your computer so you can pay for a service that doesn’t exist. They may call you and ask for access to your computer to “run a test,” or they could come in various pop-up ads on suspicious sites claiming that you must scan your computer now.

3. Dating or romance scams.

A dating or romance scam occurs when a person or group creates a fake profile on a dating site or app. They will then use emotional manipulation to gain the victim’s trust before asking for their money or personal information. Dating scams are prevalent in local and international areas. They can be very dangerous, especially if they ask victims to meet them in a “private” spot.

4. Phishing scams.

Phishing scams involve creating emails or messages that appear to be from legitimate businesses. According to statistics in Security Boulevard, at least 22% of online data breaches occurred from phishing emails in 2020. These messages often trick individuals into providing sensitive information like login information, passwords, and credit card details.

5. Job and employment scams.

These occur from scammers who pose as recruiters or employments by creating fake job posting websites online. Many job posts have links that trick people into providing personal information, with some even asking job applicants to apply upfront fees for non-existent jobs or training materials.

Many people from poverty-stricken websites also get tricked into falling for these scams, hoping that they can create a better life for their family elsewhere but end up paying for nothing, or worse, end up in a human trafficking ring.

What are some safety tips to avoid online scams?

With these types of scams in mind, it helps to proceed cautiously and keep your guard up, especially when using the internet. Here are some additional safety tips to protect yourself from malicious online scammers:

1. Always shop from trustworthy sites. Trustworthy sites allow genuine reviews so genuine customers can leave photos and reviews on the product and service. Only buy a product immediately after checking the reviews and verifying whether these reviewers are real people or from fake profiles. Check the names of the users, the photos, and if you want to go the extra mile—contact them and ask about the product yourself.

2. Always use secure payment options. Debit cards are more susceptible to security breaches than credit cards and online payment platforms like PayPal. Nevertheless, please exercise caution when using these two methods since they’re not always guaranteed to be 100% foolproof.

3. Ignore pop-up warnings. Suspicious pop-ups that encourage you to clean your computer or “get a free phone” are guises that trick people into installing malware without their knowledge. Many malware include tools that extract a person’s data, which can be used for nefarious purposes.

4. Use reliable antivirus software. Never download a scanner from a pop-up; use virus-detecting services from reputable companies to ensure your protection against various scams and viruses.

5. Never share personal information with anyone over the phone or the internet. Many scammers use various methods to reach their victims, whether cold calling or through reputable emails. If you stumble on their message, be cautious when giving out sensitive information, especially personal data, financial information, and passwords.

6. Exercise caution when using dating sites and apps. Users who insist on taking the conversation elsewhere, like social media, may want to sell you something or lure you into a sense of security. However, be insistent on staying on the dating app first, especially if you have yet to meet.

Avoid assuming the person is safe and cross-check their profile and images online, as they may be using someone else’s pictures! One way to verify their identity is to use a reverse image tool to help you find the source of the photo.

Additionally, check out the inconsistencies in their messages. If they’re being too complimentary or have a far-fetched story about needing financial assistance, take it with a grain of salt. Ask questions and refer them to any nearby help if possible.

However, if you decide to meet, make sure to meet in public areas only or set up a video chat to see if they’re the same person they claimed to be.

7. Avoid suspicious links delivered through email. Phishing scams use well-established brands and create realistic-looking emails to entice and trick their target’s trust. However, many reputable companies usually have a dedicated customer hotline to get you the needed help. If they suddenly contact you out of nowhere, consider calling their nearest office and verifying the email yourself.

8. Never pay for a job opportunity. Legitimate companies would never ask for a fee for training materials. If you receive a suspicious-looking email offering jobs, consider googling the company’s website to get a feel of the company. Be wary of communications done solely through email or instant messaging. Keep personal information private before you schedule an interview!

Final thoughts: Online scams are growing in number and are becoming more sophisticated by the day. To avoid falling victim to these traps, exercise caution and always conduct diligent research. Consider installing anti-phishing tools on your browser to filter out suspicious emails. You can also regularly change your passwords to limit these scammer’s access to your online accounts. Additionally, report fraud cases to your local law enforcement agency to help protect others from falling victim to these methods. Stay safe!