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05 December 2022

Protect Yourself From Scam: How to Recognize and Outsmart Them

Online Scams and Fraud

The 21st century is a digital age driven by information, knowledge, and data accessible all over the internet today. While technology is constantly evolving to help us, some fraudsters leverage it to trick individuals into gaining money, property, or any valuable asset. Modern technology is fueling up the old scams making it easier for perpetrators to target people anywhere in the world.

This is why we are here to help and guide you in identifying scammers posing a threat to you. Before we uncover how to avoid being scammed online, let us shed some light on online swindling.

What is a Scam?

A scam is a deceptive act or operation conducted to cheat someone to acquire money or something valuable. Fraud is generally executed by dishonest groups, an individual entity, or companies, wherein the con artist approaches a potential victim via text message, email, or call.

For instance, a scammer may contact an individual with false information about a quick-profitable scheme or a prize wherein they must deposit a certain amount or add their personal details. If the targeted victim falls into the laid trap, then they will lose their money or any priceless information.

Now that you are familiar with the concept of a scam let us walk you through some types.

Types of Scams

Earlier scams were limited to people imitating someone else, most likely a renowned personality or an authority such as a doctor, lawyer, or investor. However, since the internet's expansion, scams have evolved. It has become a global issue aimed at thousands of people every day.

Let's see what scam statistics say;

  • In the year 2021, an estimated 90% of all data breaches were due to spear phishing emails.
  • The overall cost of identity theft in 2020 and 2022 was $56 million.
  • In 2018, there were 87,765 false identities reported.
  • 33% of Americans have encountered some identity theft in their lives.

This numerical data is an indisputable fact about the seriousness of the situation, so let’s dig into the types of scams.

1. Tech Support Scam

This is an industry-wide problem wherein scammers use clever tactics to trick and panic individuals into getting irrelevant technical support for fixing a device or software problem. Scammers then ask them to pay to resolve a technical concern, and if the targeted individual agrees to pay, the tricksters win.

In the worst circumstances, swindlers even try to steal your personal and financial information. Moreover, suppose you permit them to operate remotely; they may install malware, ransomware, or unauthorized programs that can damage your data or device and intrude on your privacy.

2. Impersonation Scams

Impersonation scams are illegal practices of copying the identity of a prominent brand, a well-known personality, or companies to take advantage of a targeted person. The main agenda generally lies in data theft or selling imitation products.

Here are some common types of impersonation scams; 

  • Fake social media accounts
  • Feigning of a product or device
  • Domain spoofing
  • Cybersquatting
  • Typosquatting
  • Phishing emails

3. Utility Scams

You might be mindful of different scams, but were you aware of imposters committing utility fraud? A utility scam involves a fraudulent identity impersonation to get water, gas, cable, or other services.

In recent years, scammers have become highly creative as they use the internet to send spoofed emails to swipe account information and sensitive data. For instance, if they have your data, they can open credit lines under your name and file tax returns or obtain utilities at any address they want. You might notice recurring debit or credit card charges if the swindler used your information to pay or order utility stuff.

4. Fake Goods

Fake goods, a "too good to be true" standard scam you must have come across at least once in your lifetime. While some disregarded it as spam, few people became prey to the scamsters. 

This scam might be presented as an exciting deal, such as $40 for a $200 pair of branded glasses, but usually, they are just a phony scheme to rob money from you. Counterfeit goods and faux products are on the rise in the online marketplace, majorly overlooked by shoppers. However, make no mistake; these cheap deals are a way to extract money from people. So never transfer funds to an unknown source; pay only to reliable and trusted partners.

5. Fake Rentals

Imagine how unfortunate it will be when you invest all your savings to buy or rent out a property, but upon reaching, you find that you were embezzled. 

Basically, rental and lease are property scams against house hunters. 

Under such scams, deceivers portray themselves as brokers or owners of the desired property and ask potential buyers or tenants to deposit funds to buy or rent the residency. After the customer wires the money, the scammers disconnect the contact and vanish into thin air without leaving any traces. 

6. Fake Websites

Simply put, fake websites are unlawful internet websites used to deceive users in fraud or malicious attacks. The plan is initiated by attackers drawing a target of interest to the illegitimate website via various distribution channels. 

The next phase is when the user’s security gets compromised. Here the user goes to a website and takes action leading to exposing their information to the attacker. 

The last stage is the execution, in which the attackers exploit the victim and threaten to misuse their private data for personal benefit or sabotage their devices by implementing malicious software for varied purposes. 

As a matter of fact, many fraudulent websites are functioning under diverse speculations despite sharing identical mechanics. Let's take a look at it. 

  • Phishing scam websites
  • Online shopping scam websites
  • Scareware scam websites
  • Sweepstakes scam websites

7. Overpayment scams

Commonly referred to as refund scams, this is an overpayment scam consisting of scammers notifying the victim that they have accidentally sent an excess sum of money. Later, a scammer tries convincing the victim to transfer the difference between the sent and the actual amount. 

If the victim questions regarding the previously wired payment, the scammer claims that the accidentally sent amount is illegitimate and will not be considered. 

8. Check Cashing

You definitely have come across the news of the imprinting of fake notes, but did you know about the imprinting of counterfeit checks? Fake checks look precisely like business, personal, or cashier's checks, but they are not. 

Under such scams, an anonymous person will ask you to deposit a check for several thousand dollars to them or another source. When asked the reason for the deposit, they say you are required to cover taxes or fees of a won prize or to send money they overpaid. 

9. Romance scams

Romance scams occur when an individual creates a fake online identity to acquire the trust or affection of a potential target. They form an illusion by developing a romantic affair or close relationship to manipulate or steal from the victim. 

10. Charity Scams

Charity scams occur when an organization asks you to donate a charity amount for a good cause. These scammers never reveal how your donation will be used, and they even persuade you to contribute immediately. The distinct factor about these scammers is that they accept donations only in cash.

11. Debt Relief

Debt relief scams target people with substantial credit card bills. The scammers make a false promise to negotiate or settle their debts with creditors. In exchange, they charge a certain up-front fee to clear the debt; after that, the scammer informs the debtors that they failed to help them and disappears as if they never existed. 

12. FTC/IRS Scams

FTC (Federal Trade Commission)/ IRS (Internal Revenue Service) are con artists pretending to be the high authority to rip you off your money. To make it look true, they will call you, drop you an email, or send a text, asserting you to pay back the taxes or stating a problem with your tax return.

13. Investment Scams

Investment scams happen when scammers try to cheat you into investing funds by promising big payouts over your investment within a short period, probably a few days or weeks. They will ask you to invest in stocks, bonds, notes, commodities, currency, or real estate.

14. Lottery scams

As the name suggests, this scam begins with an unexpected call, message, or email saying you have won a great deal of money through the lottery. Generally, the targeted individual is asked to keep their good luck secret, and then they are told to contact the claims agent and pay processing fees or transfer charges to transfer the winnings to them.

15. Grandparent Scam

Grandparent scams, also recognized as grandchild scams, typically target older adults. The senior citizens receive a call from a person playing the sham of them being their grandchild. The trickster may have already researched about you and your grandchild in this scam, making the whole setup sound believable. 

While acting as your grandchild, the trickster will ask you to wire some money by saying they are caught in a difficult situation. If you receive such a call, be sure to verify it.

16. Online Shopping Scam

People enjoy shopping because it's a part of them purchasing what they like and what's better than finding a fantastic deal on your favorites, but be mindful, considering that some of these deals can be a scam. 

Online shopping scams involve the defrauder bluffing as a legitimate online merchant, either through a fake website or a phony advertisement on an authentic retailer site. Many of these frauds will include selling you apparel at a high price or even more menacing if you do not receive anything at all.

17. Business Email Compromise Scams

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is a cybercrime where the swindler drafts an email to trick someone into transferring capital or disclosing confidential company information. The scammers act like a superior authority and demand to forward classified data so they can utilize it for another scam. 

Since you vividly understand the most common frauds, let's jump on how to protect yourself from scams. 

9 Cautionary Ways to Secure Yourself from Scams

Scammers are targeting everyone despite age or gender; they are getting progressively sophisticated in their endeavors to steal your money or private information, which is why we are here to steer you on how to protect yourself from scams.

  • Be Alert - Always be alert of uninvited contacts, whether a person or a business, because there can be a possibility of a scammer planning to cheat you. Fraud can occur over the call, email, face-to-face, or social media, so be attentive to scams.
  • Do Your Research - If you ever procure an excellent job opportunity but need clarification on their business legitimacy or interact with an unknown individual on a social media platform, ensure that you do your research. Look at their profile & images, check out their company details, and probe their mutual connections.
  • Don't Open Anything Suspicious - Pop-up windows, links, attachments, and texts are the most common ways to get scammed; hence it is advised not to open sources that you think are suspicious. In any event, you can verify their identity through an online search or by flipping a phone book.
  • Don't Provide Remote Access - When repairing a device or installing an upgrade, provide remote access only to people you know and trust. If corrupted elements get unauthorized access to your system, they could install ransomware on your device.
  • Secure Your Personal Details - Personal details like passwords, emails, confidential documents, PINs, and bills are essential, and you don't want them to end up in the wrong hands. So, always keep a check on them and store them in a secure area.

    Likewise, be heedful of what you share on social media and who you are friends with, as scammers can use your information and create a fake identity to target you with a scam.
  • Always Build a Strong Password - Don't go for an obvious password that anyone can guess; instead, build a strong one, including a mix of upper & lower case letters, numerals, and symbols. Further, use different passwords for every account and update them at regular intervals.
  • Never Send Your Credentials - Don't share your card or account details and personal documents with unknown entities, as they might wipe your account clean or bereft of your personal information.
  • Be Wary of Transferring Unusual Payments - Transfer funds only to a trusted party or source, even while investing. People who are scamming will usually ask to pay in unusual payment methods like preloaded debit cards, iTunes cards, bitcoin, or gift cards, so always be observant before spending your earnings.
  • Shop Only Through Trusted Sites - The thumb rule for buying online stuff should only be through verified sellers and well-known, trusted sites like Amazon. Customers who might buy from unrecognized people or websites tend to deal with low-quality imitations or damaged pieces, so it's a prevalent scam faced by numerous online shoppers around the globe. Also, before buying, do make sure to check the payment gateway and return policy of the brand.

Here are some technical parameters to avoid getting scammed

  • Make sure to install the latest antivirus and firewall software.
  • Check your account's privacy settings and keep them up to date.
  • Install caller ID apps on your phone to stay protected from robocallers and scammers.
  • Refrain from using public hotspots or WiFi to make your financial transactions.

Our Advice to You?

Being scammed is an irrepressible circumstance; however, it is substantial to take precautions. If in case you or someone you are familiar with gets scammed, report it to the cops and take the necessary actions to safeguard yourself from future risks.

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