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Protecting Yourself Online: How To Recognize & Avoid Internet Scams

internet scams

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) more than $10 billion were stolen due to fraud in 2023. The majority of these fraud cases can be found in internet scams. It’s critical, now more than ever, to protect yourself and your finances. In these times, knowledge is your best defense, and recognizing a scam before you fall victim to it is crucial. Luckily, most online fraud follows the same approach, and have common ways you can spot them, ensuring you can stay safe in the online space. We will cover the most common signs you can identify and avoid online scams like:

  • Phishing scams
  • Romance scams
  • Online shopping scams

Join us as we explore the ways you can protect yourself online and recognize and avoid online scams.

How To Recognize The Most Common Type Of Internet Scams: Phishing

Phishing Scams

According to the FTC more than $2 billion has been stolen from Americans in 2023 through phishing scams. Phishing is basically an internet scammer sending you an email, direct message, or text, pretending to be a service provider, or someone you know. Their goal is to get you to give them your critical information, like your social security number, bank details or passwords. With this information they can steal money from your accounts, open credit cards in your name, and gain access to your online accounts.

However, you can find and protect yourself from internet scams by paying close attention to specific tactics they use. While online fraudsters can create a fake username and profile picture that may look like it comes from your bank, they can’t create an email address that matches your bank. If you pay special attention to the email address of the sender, you should be able to identify a phishing scam quite easily.

Most service providers would not ask for your sensitive information, particularly not your passwords or account numbers. This is mainly because, no one should have access to your passwords, and they would already have access to your account information, and they would rather use other means of authentication. Phishing scammers can also use publicly available information, like who your colleagues are, from your company website, and attempt to contact you, pretending to be your coworker.

One common practice the scammers use is they claim to need something urgently, but are currently in a meeting so cannot take a call. If you receive an email like this, make sure you verify the email address, and contact your colleague through another channel, since it is unlikely the scammer would have access to multiple channels of contact. Also, do not follow links that do not have a security certificate, your web browser should be able to help identify them, but you can also tell if the url starts with an http instead of https.

Romance Scams: Taking Advantage Of People Looking For Love

Romance Scams

Internet scams look to take advantage of people’s emotions. Whether it is the fear of losing access to your critical accounts or finding love. Romance scammers often use pictures of attractive people and approach a wide net of people, sending them messages through social media to try and make a connection. They will try to get you to send money, usually pretending to be in an emergency or claiming they will meet up with you. You should also be suspicious if they are never available for video calls, since it’s impossible to accurately fake a video call live. Although it is important to be aware that deepfake technology is becoming more advanced, so this might not be a viable strategy in the near future.

To identify a romance internet scam there are a few tools available to you. Firstly since romance scammers steal images, you can use reverse image search tools like Tineye or Google image search. You can also search their name through a search engine, if all you find are their social media accounts without any other information, that is not a good sign. Overall it’s not a good idea to send anyone on the internet money if you don’t know them. Make sure you are certain that the person you are talking to is real and protect yourself from scammers.

Stay Safe When You Shop Online

Online marketplaces like Amazon, Craigslist, and Facebook give people the chance to sell their unwanted goods and give you the chance to get items at a better deal. However, like any marketplace, scammers will take the chance to take advantage of well-meaning people. You should exercise caution when engaging with people selling items.

For example, never pay a deposit for an item on an online marketplace, only exchange money when you can physically see the product, and ideally, have had a chance to inspect it. You should also be wary of sellers who do not want to meet in person. This may mean they have bad intentions because they do not want you to recognize them in the future.

Another warning sign is if they want you to pay for the product in a non-refundable way, for example through a wire transfer or through gift cards. If they are legitimate they would have no problem with you using a secure means of transferring money, and if they are a scammer they don’t want you to be able to get your money back after they have scammed you.

You also should not trust grainy or low-quality images of stock, scammers use these low-quality images to hide defects or breakage in their products. Always make sure you thoroughly research who you are buying from, and use safe and secure ways of sending money, that way, if you need it refunded, you won’t encounter issues.

Protecting Yourself Online: How To Recognize & Avoid Internet Scams

As mentioned before, people try to take advantage of your emotions when they try to scam you. Internet scams often involve time pressure, asking you to act now to prevent something bad from happening. They might offer you an opportunity that seems too good to be true because it is. Or they will play on your empathy, making you feel sorry for them, or their situation. In these situations, you must always take a step back and assess.

If you think you are being contacted by your bank or service provider, call them on another line and make sure the information being sent to you is legitimate. Make sure you have two-factor authorization set up on your account, that way if someone tries to access your account, you will receive a text message notifying you, and never tell anyone your two-factor code, even if they claim they work for the bank.

Make sure you keep your computer protected with up-to-date antivirus software. If you are searching for a significant other online, make sure you are careful, and don’t send anyone money, regardless of the reason for it.

When it comes to online shopping, try to only engage with verified vendors who have a noticeable track record, and do your research on them before exchanging money.

Make sure you stay up to date with all the techniques scammers are using and the best way to defend yourself against them. One way you can protect yourself online is by keeping up to date with the latest scams by checking our blog for the latest anti-fraud news!