What are the 5 Biggest Online Scams?

By Ben Hartwig
13 August, 2018

Is it any consolation that you’re now more likely to be a victim of crime at your own home – by computer – rather than in the street in most places? That’s true, a larger percentage of people than ever is likely to be victimized by online scams. Fraud and scams happen to 25 million people a year, with 40 percent of them being under age 30. Younger victims lose less money on average at $400, however, as seniors tend to lose an average of $1,000. Here are some of the most effective online scams:

Fake Pop-up

Imagine one day you’re surfing the web when suddenly a pop-up appears on your screen that says, in ALL CAPS that your computer has been compromised by hackers! The pop-up will often direct you to call tech support immediately and provide a number. If you call the number, the fake tech support helpers are actually scammers who will convince you that they can fix the problem. At times they will ask to take control (remotely) of your computer to show you evidence of the hacking (which they may plant on your computer) but essentially the scam is to sell you protection from hackers – when in fact they are the hackers.

Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are just the way they sound: hoping to hook someone who can’t tell the difference between fake bait and the real deal. Sometimes they’re so slick they catch a big fish, like the member of the Democratic party committee who in 2015 clicked on a scam link and let hackers into his email account (much of which was shared with Wikileaks and became international news). These scams use copycat versions of emails and ads with fake URLs from banks and other reputable businesses to get you to click, enter your password, and divulge other sensitive information. They’re hard to avoid because experts say nearly one-third of all email attempts to scam.

The government’s consumer watchdog at the Federal Trade Commission suggests if you receive an email insisting that you click on a link to communicate with your bank or another trusted organization that you should skip the link and type the name of the organization or business yourself or call rather than communicating online. Another option to find out who the person is can be a reverse email lookup.

Romance Scams

romance scams

Shame prevents many people from reporting the growing online scheme of romantic fraud. Exploiting lonely people through social media and online dating sites, these scammers become “friends” with a person and build a relationship of messages and sometimes phone calls, pretending to be interested romantically. Then, the scammer asks for a favor: help paying a bill, purchasing a plane ticket to unite with the new flame or even bail money for a situation he/she will confide only to this one person.

Once the scammer has siphoned as much money as he can out of his victim, he (or she) disappears, leaving the victim broke and brokenhearted. Although this crime is undercounted due to the shame involved, officials say it affects about 15,000 people a year and is growing.

Online Shopping Scams

Fake or nonexistent products advertised at an “unbelievable price” usually disappoint, says the Better Business Bureau. This is another scam designed to lure online shoppers to purchase goods using advertisements based on the buyer’s past shopping habits for clothing, equipment, jewelry, and more.

This growing scheme might support the $500,000,000 international trade in fake designer goods – or it might just take your money and send no goods in return. A giveaway is a retail website with poor grammar, unprofessional design, or one that requests wire transfers rather than credit card purchases.

Easy Money Scams

Get rich quick schemes have plagued people for generations. Everyone wants to win the lottery or get something valuable for free, but most times the opportunities are nothing but a scam. As easy as these are to spot, they still sucked $7 million out of their victims in a recent year. Many of these schemes promise a turnkey business, or “easy money” just for installing an app on one’s phone in return for an investment of a few hundred dollars. Another called Sellers Playbook promises to teach people how to make money online.

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