With advancing technology and the importance of the latest innovations in our everyday lives, the debate about whether technology is a boon or a bane is leaning towards the positive side. However, one bane that continues to inconvenience innocent internet users is online scams. With the help of clever schemes and tactics, hackers are running billion-dollar scams and loot millions of people every year.
In fact, when McAfee surveyed in 2019 to identify the extent of online scams, the results were genuinely shocking In 2019 alone, 56.1% of the respondents had fallen prey to various scams, especially discount scams that took users to sketchy websites. Another survey found that 53.6% of respondents were victims of scams from deceiving apps.
With most of our information stored online due to online shopping, online banking, etc., falling prey to such scams will be nothing short of catastrophic. Hence, being wary of such scams is more important than ever. In this article, we have listed seven of the most common internet scams and how you can protect yourself from being their victim.
1) Email Scams
Email scams could very well be known as the start of the entire issue as emails have been a preferred medium of scammers and hackers for a while. Ideally, you will receive some sort of business scheme or investment opportunity, which will require you to plug-in your information. The latest hacks seem to be posed as discount emails from popular brands.
Protect Yourself From Email Scams
As easy as it is to receive a mail, it is easier to delete a mail. So, if you ever get a mail regarding certain opportunities or discounts, first visit the company’s official website to verify the information. If anything seems fishy, delete the email immediately.
Another tactic you can use is to check the sender’s email ID. While we generally look at the name displayed, checking the email ID is more useful. A hacker or scammer’s email ID will most likely be made of weird letter-number combinations.
2) Travel Scams
With 4g internet speed and multiple websites, travelling has never been this easy. You can plan an entire vacation within a matter of minutes. But your summer or spring break can quickly turn into a nightmare if you’re not cautious as travel scams are extremely common. For example, you might get an ‘offer’ of free tickets or discounted rates by booking through a particular website. After making all the bookings, you realize that the website is fake. So, you’ve lost your money but don’t have any tickets.
Protect Yourself From Travel Scams
Firstly, wherever possible, try booking directly from the official website of the hotel, airline, rental car agency you’re trying to reserve. If you prefer using a third-party website, make sure it is reputable, credible and secure. Ensure that the website you’re booking from has “HTTPS” in the URL.
Moreover, in the case of third-party booking sites, make sure you check out the reviews of the site, you can also ask your friends and family if they have either heard of the website or if they have any recommendations of websites they have used in the past.
Another good way to protect yourself is by using a credit card while making a booking. This will ensure that the scammers don’t get direct access to your bank account. Moreover, most credit card companies provide fraud protection.
Lastly, once you have booked from a third-party website, make sure you call the company to verify if the reservation is legit. If not, you will have enough time to inform your credit card company about the fraud and stop the payment, while being able to make proper reservations before your trip.
3) Classified Ad Scams
One of the most fundamental parts of advertising in the digital era is online classified ads. Customer-customer market places OLX and eBay have millions of registered subscribers who trade and purchase second-hand items or trade information. However, these platforms have also become a hotspot for fraudulent activities, especially as most of these websites do not require a lot of information from users to post ads. So, you use these platforms to buy a bike, talk to the seller, make an advance payment, and never actually get the bike.
Protect Yourself From Classified Ad Scams
Firstly, whenever possible, try to make deals with people who are selling products in your area. This will enable you to schedule a face-to-face meeting before actually giving any funds or information. To avoid this, most scammers will contact you from another country or from an area where you can’t physically go to check out the product.
Another pointer to keep in mind is to stay far from dreams that seem too good to be true. When a scammer posts a fake ad, they price the products significantly low, in hopes of attracting maximum people.
Lastly, if you’re sure that the ad is fake, make sure you click on the ‘report abuse’ option to save other people!
4) Click & Earn Scams
In the fast-paced lives, we are leading, with intense competition and the unemployment rate skyrocketing, many people are constantly on the lookout for easy ways to earn some money. Taking advantage of this click and earn scams have gained a lot of popularity. Basically, you will be asked to click on a link and earn money. It seems almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, it is. When you click on the link, you don’t get any money. By clicking on the link, best case you’ve lost 2 seconds of your time, worst case, the scammers have hacked into your browser and have all available information about you.
Additionally, some companies may ask you to provide a ‘deposit fee’ to protect intellectual property, which will be returned to you after you complete the task. Once you give the fee, you will most likely lose all contact with them.
Protect Yourself From Click & Earn Scams
Whenever you’re presented with an opportunity to earn easy money, be wary as you’re probably headed towards being scammed. As mentioned before, any opportunity that seems too good to be true probably is.
Another thing you must never indulge in is upfront payments. If you’re asked to pay money to participate in a click and earn activity, you mustn’t engage in that activity at all. After all, why would a company ask you to pay for something wherein they are supposed to pay you?
5) Lottery Scam
Also known as an advanced-fee fraud, a lottery scam generally begins with an unexpected email notification, phone call, which will inform you that you have won a large sum of money in the lottery. Then the recipient of the message is asked to pay a processing fee or transfer charge so the winnings can be sent out. But, once you pay the fee, you are not going to receive any lottery amount. Many email lottery scams use the names of big agencies like coca-cola, or an insurance firm. But, these are just names and the actual company has nothing to do with this.
Protect Yourself From Lottery Scam
To protect yourself from a lottery scam, you just need to consider certain basic factors before interacting with someone. Unless you’ve bought a ticket, you cannot win a prize. Secondly, all genuine lottery organizers deduct their fees from the prize, so you should not have to pay any money to them. Secondly, a scam lottery organizer will always ask you to keep your win confidential to prevent you from speaking to the actual company whose name they have used.
Another common pointer you will notice is grammatical or spelling errors if they have reached out to you via mail.
6) OTP Scams
One Time Password or OTP scam is one of the most popular social engineering and Phishing frauds in India. People from urban and rural areas are victims of these types of scams as lakhs of rupees have been stolen through this method; however, very few culprits are caught.
This scam generally works in two steps:
- The victims are asked to reveal OTPs on the phone via email, SMS, or call.
- Malware is used to corrupt or gains access to a system through the OTP in the form of SMS. The offenders then transfer the money from the victims’ accounts to their personal accounts.
Protect Yourself From OTP Scams
The most simple way to save yourself from such scams is to never share your confidential OTP to anyone, especially over a phone call, WhatsApp or email. Remember, bank officials will never ask for your OTP; hence, if a person is asking for your OTP, they’re probably trying to deceive you.
Additionally, while making payments online, remember these tips too:
- Check for https:// and lock icon for secure online transactions
- Never transfer or receive money while on-call
- Never click on short links
7) NGO or Public Service Scams
You may get a call or email from an organization claiming to be an NGO or a public service official, who requests for money to help a person or community in need. For example, you may get many calls from ‘NGOs’ for a COVID-19 relief fund. The money you send these organizations may never end up being used for the cause.
Protect Yourself From NGO Scams
The easiest way to protect yourself from such scams is to always verify the authenticity of an organization before giving them any funds. For example, if an NGO reaches out to you, as them for an official website and their license copy.
Additionally, once you have made the payment, always ask for a confirmation letter claiming that you have paid XYZ amount to a particular organization.
In conclusion, many scammers are trying to conduct fraud; however, with a little caution and awareness, they won’t be able to get a single rupee!0