The number of online scams is growing rapidly, in this article you can learn about email scams, phone call scams, catfishing, and online shopping scams and how to avoid them.
The Increased Danger of Online Scams
With more people having access to the Internet each year, the number of scammers has skyrocketed. According to a report from 2019, online scams have caused almost 150 million dollars worth of damage. Unsurprisingly, the group most affected by these scams is between ages 55 and 64. Two of the most common delivery methods for these malicious intents are mobile phones and the Internet, making the scams fairly easy to isolate.
Although there are countless variations of different scams, only a couple of them has high success rates. Knowing how to protect yourself against the following four approaches will reduce your chances of becoming a victim to a minimum.
Protecting Yourself Against Common Scams
Commonly referred to as a phishing email, this type of attack tries to trick people into providing sensitive information by masking itself as a legitimate company/individual. Depending on how much effort was put in, these emails can be almost indistinguishable from the real ones.
The best defense is keeping the built-in spam filters turned on at all times. They are far from perfect, but these filters will stop the junk from clogging up your inbox. Avoid clicking on any links in emails from suspicious addresses, especially if they lead to websites with seemingly incorrect URL's.
Another tried-and-tested way of avoiding email scams is through the use of Spokeo. The online tool can run an email search on any address, after which it generates a report containing the owner's personal details – name, social media profiles, secondary emails, etc. Compare the results carefully with the info that came in the email, and you'll be able to easily differentiate between scams and the real deals.
Phone Call Scams
Even though they reach you in a different way, phone call scams have a lot of similarities with the email ones. Usually, the person on the other end will act as if they're a representative of a bank, a government agency, or even some large firm such as Microsoft and Apple. Then, they'll try to extract some compromising information, such as a credit card PIN.
Ideally, you should avoid answering calls from unknown phone numbers. Banks and other institutions will never require you to disclose private information via a phone call. Also, make sure to never return one-ring calls. These numbers can lead to foreign countries, which will incur severe call charges.
To be certain, you could run a phone number search using Spokeo. Pay special attention to the owner's location as well as their identity. Even if everything does seem legit, call the organization that the person is allegedly representing and double-check.
Online Shopping Scams
Online shopping scams usually come in two different variations – either an individual tries to trick you, or there's a full-on website whose sole purpose is to aid in stealing money. These can be an auction, fake retailer, and even online classified websites. Fortunately, there are a couple of dead giveaways that can help you notice these scams.
If the retailer asks for a full up-front deposit or uses shady payment methods such as wire transfers and cryptocurrency, stay away from them. A legitimate website will always support secure systems by the likes of PayPal, Dwolla, and others. Check their reviews, the website's age as well as the overall quality of the design and performance.
Running a reverse phone lookup or an email search on the owner/seller is also a good way to analyze their legitimacy. Do they have a criminal record? Do they possess an online shopping website if they're listed as the owner? These are just some of the key points that you should look out for.
Most often found on dating websites, catfishing involves people creating a fake persona in order to manipulate the victim. While this is commonly done with the sole purpose of financial benefit, there are catfishes with more sinister goals in mind. In some cases, they even meet up with the person, which makes this type of scam one of the most dangerous.
Before engaging in deeper conversations with an online friend, always run a reverse image search through Google. This way, you'll know if the person behind the account is pretending to be someone who they're not. Ask them to communicate with you via a video call using Skype or other similar apps. Catfishes will always try to find excuses for being unable to do so, whether it's a bad Internet connection or an inappropriate time.
As long as you use common sense and remain skeptical, you'll never fall victim to a catfishing scam.