Online Scams? What They Are and How to Avoid Them
More than $667 million was lost to online sales last year, a more than 30% increase from the previous year. Scams are becoming more prevalent and harder to detect, but there are basic things anyone can do to help protect themselves from becoming a victim. Learn more about the various scams and how to avoid them to keep yourself and your finances safe.
What Types of Internet Scams are Out There?
There are hundreds of different scams out there. The types are continuously evolving and changing to try to trick more unsuspecting people into sending money. A few of the most prevalent scams today include the following:
- Phishing Scams – The goal here is to download malware onto a person’s computer and access personal information like bank account passwords or numbers.
- Nigerian Scams – The victim receives an email saying there is a lot of money coming their way, but it has been held up in customs. The goal is to get the victim to send money to pay the customs fee to release the funds, which never happens.
- Banking Scams – Victims receive emails with a pre-approved loan amount, and all they need to do is sign up. The goal here is access to the victim’s personal information for identity theft.
- Lottery Scams – The victim receives a notification via email or a popup that they’ve won a lottery they never signed up for or won a prize. The goal is to get money by convincing the victim they need to pay fees to receive their winnings.
- Romance Scams – The victim meets someone online, but before they can meet in person, the victim is asked to send money for some sort of emergency that’s keeping the scammer from meeting them.
Tips to Identify an Online Scam and Avoid Becoming a Victim
Being aware of scams and always double-checking anything before sending money can help people avoid being a victim. Use the following as a guide to learn how to identify an online scam:
- Too Good to be True – If something is too good to be true, chances are, it’s not true. Do some research to make sure the deal is valid before buying anything.
- Asking for Money – If an email asks for money for any reason, do not send it. Instead, if you recognize the company requesting money, call to see if the debt is valid.
- Requires Personal Information – Do not click links through social media posts or emails and enter any personal information. Even if the link looks valid, it may not be.
- Requests Gift Cards for Payment – Police departments, IRS, and other official entities will never ask for a gift card for payment. A gift card to use as payment is always a scam.
Right Now, Be Aware of Coronavirus Scams
With the pandemic, areas are in lockdown, or there are limits on what can be open and who can work. Like any major event, there is plenty of room for scams. It’s crucial to be wary of the coronavirus scams that are going around right now to prevent becoming a victim.
- Bogus Cures and Products – There is no cure for coronavirus and no medications, other than the vaccine, that can help someone avoid getting it. If a product claims to cure the coronavirus or stop its transmission, it is a scam.
- Faster Vaccine Access – Vaccines are rolling out, but it’s happening slowly as the companies try to create more vaccines to meet the demand needed. Listen to official sources to find out when it may be possible to get a vaccine. Anything that says it can help you skip the line to get one faster is just a scam.
- Stimulus Scams – With many people desperately needing help, stimulus-related scams are prevalent. View the IRS website for updated information on scams. There will never be a need to send money to cover a fee to get the stimulus payments.
Most people who fall victim to online scams don’t think it will ever happen to them. Yet, it does, and it amounts to millions of dollars lost every year. By paying attention to the signs of a scam and verifying anything before sending money or personal information, it is far less likely you will be a victim of a scam online. Use the information here to stay safe, especially during the pandemic as new scams are prevalent. If you are even the slightest bit suspicious of an online interaction, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
There are plenty of YouTube channels that turn the scams around on the companies doing the scamming. While they are entertaining, it shows how easy it is to be taken. It’s not always just an individual out to make a quick buck, there are whole companies dedicated to this process and they make millions every month off stolen funds. The fact is, it can happen to anyone with an online connection. Be sure to report large online scams to the proper authorities.
Stay vigilant, friends!