Popular words of wisdom say that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. In the decades that the Internet has been around, it’s done a lot of good, but it’s also given scammers, criminals, and conmen an avenue to manipulate people and trick them out of their hard-earned money.
If you’ve been online long enough, you’ve surely encountered at least one of these popular internet scams, and if you haven’t – lucky you! – you’ll know what to look out for and stay away from.
1. Nigerian Prince
The scam: Everyone’s got to know this vintage one from the 90s (it’s actually been around since the 1800s!): you get an email from someone who claims they’re a Prince from Nigeria who’s in a bit of an embarrassing jam.
You see, he’s either imprisoned because of a misunderstanding and can’t post bail because his accounts are frozen, or there’s this huge investment opportunity, but he can’t get the money out of the country. Either way, he desperately needs your help. In return, you’ll receive millions of dollars when he reaches safety. Sounds legit, huh?
The catch: Of course, he asks you for a neat little sum to post bail, or for your bank account, so they can deposit the money for the investment. Your money is long gone, and potentially, so is the money in your own bank account.
2. Phishing scams
The scam: Phishing scams are incredibly common and very realistic, so you have to be extra vigilant. You typically get an email from what appears to be an institution (possibly your bank) letting you know that there’s an issue with your account or some of your information. Maybe it’s even so you can make some money. All you have to do is “confirm” your details by inputting them again. They even provide a helpful link in the email; you just have to click through and give them the info.
The catch: Inevitably, the link leads to a fake site where you are freely giving away your most valuable information. The scammers then use it to steal money or your identity. Either way, it’s not a great place to be in.
3. Start making money in 30 days!!!!
The scam: The Get Rich Quick scam has been around for decades, as well, and it’s easier than ever to catch victims online. The scam sounds enticing – they’re usually willing to share their incredible secret with you (they always promise that it’s really easy) and all you have to do in exchange is give them $2,000. Or, the incredibly smart, incredibly easy get-rich-quick set-up requires a “starting sum” that you need to “invest.” You’ll be raking in the cash in just a few days!
The catch: Once you pay the
sucker fee investment fee, you will either receive an incredibly basic e-book full of useless marketing gems, or you will just never hear from them again. Alternatively, you may be told you aren’t applying the get rich method right and to just keep trying. Either way, your money is gone, and the only ones getting rich quick are the scammers.
4. You’ve WON 1 million!!!
The scam: You’re just minding your own business browsing online, and suddenly, you’re greeted by a violently flashing pop-up letting you know that you’re the BIG WINNER of some amount or other. All you have to do is CLICK HERE to collect your prize money. What a happy day!
The catch: You won’t get any money by clicking the pop-up, but you will probably get malware. Alternatively, you may be roped into some sort of scheme where they ask you personal details, including your bank details to supposedly give you your earnings. We don’t assume you’ll be shocked to learn that you might end up with a stolen identity or stolen money.
5. Facebook group invites/business opportunities
The scam: This one hurts more than others because most of the time, these are your friends and family members ripping you off. It starts off pretty innocently, either with a Facebook group or “party” invite, or an old friend from high-school messaging you. She (the overwhelming majority are women) misses you and wants to catch up!
Two minutes in, she starts
talking about how she’s her own boss now and running her own business, and
everything is going great. Wouldn’t you please support a single mother and her
business by making a
donation purchase of $70 for these plastic
crystals? They’ve got healing powers!
The catch: Your friend not only doesn’t care how you’ve been in the last 15 years but she is also involved in a pyramid scheme and is probably drowning in debt. And now she’s trying to pull you down with her. Whether she’s realized that this is a scam or not yet, nothing good will come out of this, and your money will only pay for more useless products for her to harass her shrinking friend list with.
6. Money laundering scams
The scam: Similar to the Nigerian Prince, some nice people contact you by email to ask for your very valuable help. You see, there is a hugely profitable investment to be made, but they need your help to make a money transfer for them. A sizeable check will be deposited in your name, you get to use your share, and transfer the rest to its rightful owner.
The catch: Congratulations, you’ve just been made part of a money-laundering scam. The check has since bounced, and you’ve spent some money that isn’t yours to spend and that you will 100% be on the hook for.
The scam: The Nigerian Prince gave way to a ton of offshoots, as the concept on this one is pretty similar. The set-up of this is that they target single people looking for love (usually older women), manipulate them with sweet words and messages over several weeks or months, and eventually convince them to “help” them by wiring over thousands of dollars. But don’t worry, they’ll pay you back!
The catch: Not only will the victim never get their money back, but their online lover is usually a completely different person than the one they’ve been pretending to be. The people catfishing use fake pictures and fake identities, so chances are that even if you try to find them, it’s very difficult, or even impossible.
8. Fake shopping website
The scam: You get an email from someone masquerading as an online shop letting you know about the excellent deals currently going on, and you just have to log on and put some of your favorites in your basket. And you do – you click through their link, browse, add to cart, put your credit card details in and make the purchase. It’s almost too easy.
The catch: Not so fast – that wasn’t a real shop, and you just handed over your card details to some scammers. The cute top you bought isn’t going to arrive, either. Sorry.
What to do when faced with these scams
Okay, now you’re a little bit more aware of what’s out there. Say you’re faced with one of these scams head-on – what do you do?
- Don’t click any suspicious links
- Don’t click random online pop-ups
- Don’t download any attachments from unknown email addresses
- Don’t reply to emails from unknown addresses asking for information
- Don’t trust strangers (and sometimes, even people you know) when they’re offering you a suspiciously good deal or a ridiculously easy way to make money
- Don’t give anyone you don’t know money for any reason, under any circumstance, no matter the situation they present to you
- If you receive an uncharacteristic email from an institution or a friend asking for money or information, call them to confirm it’s coming from them
- Pay with credit cards as much as possible over debit cards, as it’s easier to recoup losses
- If you’ve fallen victim to a scam, try to stop the payment as soon as possible. Alternatively, dispute the charges
- If you suspect that you’re faced with a scam, even if you haven’t suffered any losses, report it to the authorities
As you can see, online scams abound, so you have to be very careful where you click, who you trust, and even who you reply to. It’s ridiculously easy for someone to set up a scam that produces thousands of victims, and unless you’re careful, you may be one of them. Be aware of these 8 common online scams and others like them, so that you can protect yourself to the best of your ability.
What to Do If You Get Scammed
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