It’s become incredibly easy to fall for online scams, even for those who consider themselves good at recognizing a fraudulent scheme. Scammers have kept evolving their practices and honing their crooked ways. These days, many scams are so sophisticated that they’re hard to identify at first.
Be alert and take precautions to avoid becoming one of the millions of people that fall for scammers’ ploys every year. Here are 6 critical things to keep in mind to avoid online scams.
Remember No One is Exempt
Scammers target everyone. They don’t care about someone’s age, income, lifestyle, or gender. The only goal is to find personal information they can exploit or someone who will give them money without asking too many questions.
That said, there are some scams (called spear phishing) which do target specific people because of personal information the scammers have about them. For example, some criminals find people who use a specific bank – usually through a data breach – and send them official-looking communication to steal their login information.
There’s nothing anyone can do to avoid getting calls or messages from scammers. Even social media and online ads can be rife with fraudsters promising quick riches (often via Bitcoin) or schemes that promise to improve people’s credit.
Be Aware of Popular Scam Tactics
While there are plenty of unique scams out there, many scammers still follow a typical script, for a better term. A lot of scammers pretend to be an official person to get people to do what they want. For example, pretending to be customer support from a well-known company asking for remote access to a person’s computer. Here are some other things they typically do:
– Instill a sense of urgency to get people to do what they say or give them what they want before they have time to think it through. – Use poor grammar and spelling (this is often intentional). – Make promises that sound too good to be true. – Ask for personal details or information like passwords.
– Ask for money for whatever reason. This is usually true for things that should be free, such as applying for or getting a job.
Don’t Give Away Information or Cash
Con artists can be charming, threatening, or even sound pitiful enough to dupe people into giving them what they want. Relax and take some time to think things through first. Talk to someone about it, if necessary, to get a second opinion.
The best policy is to never reply to a suspected scam. If avoiding further communication isn’t an option, think about what they said and ask them questions to get more information. Ask for evidence to verify what they’re claiming. If it’s a message or email from an official source like a well-known company, then go to that company’s website and take it further from there.
Do Research Online
Scams are usually quickly reported these days, and there are many websites that list them and forums where people will mention them. Anyone concerned that they might be dealing with a scam should look it up on their preferred search engine.
Try typing something like the name of the company or the type of situation and “scam” or “review” to see what comes up. If it was a call, try searching for the number. People report phone numbers as scams on websites like OkCaller, which might provide more information about who called.
Keep Computers and Devices Secure
Always keep devices secured with passwords and never share or write them down. Keep the network connection on devices secure with a virtual private network. What is a VPN? It’s a tool that people use to envelop their connection in a protective tunnel. The technical term is called encryption. This encryption keeps hackers from hijacking connections and stealing information from them.
Although keep in mind that digital security isn’t limited to protecting devices. Secure online accounts by choosing unique passwords for each one and activating two-factor authentication.
Look at the Payment Method They Ask For
Credit cards and bank transfers are easily traceable and have fraud protection built-in. That makes those options less desirable to scammers. They’ll usually ask for alternative payment methods like cryptocurrencies, gift cards, Paypal, or money transfers.
Always be wary of online strangers and their motives. And just because it’s happened once doesn’t mean it won’t happen again. When scammers verify a real person behind an email address or phone number, they’ll frequently come back with more follow-up scams. Always report an attempted scam to local authorities.