Every time the internet evolves, it brings with it a new breed of scammer. These scammers are like modern day hackers, exploring the backdoors of peoples’ trust and misunderstandings and taking advantage of the seemingly apathetic attitude that law enforcement and banks have to most cases of fraud.
Sure, they will act quickly if someone has defrauded the government or taken millions from large companies, but when someone loses credit card details online, is robbed of a few hundred dollars and then gets their money back anyway from the bank, no one seems to care.
We picked out some of these issues in our guides to Bitcoin Scams, Venmo Scams, PayPal Scams, Credit Card Scams and Western Union Scams, but now we’re going to focus on online/internet scams in general, showing you how unforgiving the online world can be to people who are overly trusting.
Imagine the scenario: you’re out and about, maybe at a coffee shop, a venue, or just on the street. You can’t get a connection through 4G, so you look around for a Wi-Fi hotspot. Amongst all of the secure networks you find a public one.
So you connect, you do what you need, whether that be shopping, browsing or checking your savings account, and then you finish up.
Then, minutes later, you discover your social media account have been hacked, your money is steadily disappearing from your bank and someone has accessed your email accounts.
How Wi-Fi Scams Work
It’s much easier than you think to hijack a public Wi-Fi network. If it’s unsecured it doesn’t just mean that users like yourself can connect and browse the web, it also means that scammers can hijack the line and intercept all of the data that is processed through it.
This data includes any site you browse, any keys you input (including passwords and financial data) and pretty much everything that you do online.
How to Avoid Wi-Fi Scams
Always make sure you use a secure network, even if it’s a secure public network from a restaurant that provides a password on the menu. And don’t assume that just because the public network is available in a popular location means it’s safe, this is simply not the case.
You should also make sure that your own home network is secure and that it doesn’t just use the default password. There are millions of homeowners who mistakenly believe that if someone accesses their Wi-Fi they will just use their internet for free. This is not the case and it can get you in all kinds of trouble, such as having your network used to commit fraud or other illegal activities.
Online Social Media Scams
These online scams revolve around social media. Most people have accounts, the world is connected, and everyone lets their guard down. It’s the perfect playground for scammers and that’s why so many rely on social media sites like Facebook to target their victims.
How Social Media Scams Work
There are a few common online scams centered around social media.
1. Messages from People you Know
You get a message that seems to be from someone in your Facebook contact list. It says something simple like, “This seemed like something you would like” and is followed by a link. But that link could direct you everywhere form phishing sites to downloads that contain malware.
Your friend has been hacked—they are not the ones sending you the message. They may also use this hack to get other details from close friends and family.
2. Fake Accounts
For very celebrity and every genuine page or profile, there are hundreds of fake accounts. They all use the name and images of the celebrity, many them are kept active with regular posts, and some of them use profile names that are very similar, making it hard for anyone to distinguish.
The scammer then begins to get follows from people who think they are the real deal and they can further enhance this by purchasing cheap followers. Once they have a few hundred thousand, they look genuine and can start scamming. They use these accounts to do everything from catfishing (often for the purposes of getting money or compromising pictures) or to try and sell something that doesn’t exist.
3. Fake Charities
These scammers take advantage of peoples’ good nature by launching GoFundMe projects and even PayPal Donation pages for everyone from sick children to charitable causes that are trending.
How to Avoid These Online Scams
If you are ever going to part with your money, financial details, or anything else, always make sure you know who you are dealing with and your are 100% certain they are legitimate.
In the event of fake celebrities, it’s very easy to find out, as those celebs will have official pages with official badges. And if you get a message from a friend that seems a little off, engage them in a conversation before doing anything drastic.
Other Common Online Scams in 2018
There are many more scams out there, including some of these huge online scams that have claimed countless victims already in 2018.
The Fake Emergency Scams
Scammers have been hacking peoples’ address book and sending out mass emails more or less since we all started sending emails, but in recent years a new breed of scam has emerged. Scammers send out emails claiming that someone is trapped in a foreign county and needs money wired to their account desperately. Friends and family may be quick to help them out and pay, but in reality they should phone them.
Because if they did, they’d likely find they were sitting at home comfortably without any idea that those emails had been sent.
Online payment methods are increasingly closing their virtual doors on scammers and they can’t use credit cards or debt cards either because of the paper trail. To get around it, they often ask for gift cards and other novelty payment methods. This is despite the fact that the scams include pretending to be from the IRS (as if the IRS would ever ask for payment in iTunes gift cards) and even the police.
No legitimate company would ever ask for payment via this method.
Secret Shopper Scam
You receive an email claiming that you have been invited to take part in a paid secret shopper gig. They even promise to send you a check and that check shows up. When you deposit it, the money seems to clear, so you set off and do what was asked of you, which can include receiving and sending money to pay for a so-called “secret shopping activity”.
But it’s all a scam. It works because most banks will clear a check within a day or two and will only recognize it as being fake a further week or two later. In that time being the victim has been led to believe that they are working with a legitimate organization and could have lost a fortune.