Scamming has happened ever since the first caveman was tricked into parting with his precious tools in exchange for bogus mammoth insurance. In the internet age, scamming has gotten cheaper, quicker and less risky. So what are the most popular online scams, and what can you do to avoid falling into their costly trap?
A lot of money changes hands these days via online marketplaces. These sites act as middlemen, which often opens them up for impersonation, where scammers pose as official marketplace agents demanding payment or goods where no transaction has been made.
For example, if you’re selling an item online, scammers might send you an email mimicking the notification you get when you’ve made a sale, prompting you to send the item to a bogus recipient. Once you’ve sent the goods, they simply disappear.
How to avoid
Make sure you familiarise yourself with exactly what official emails look like and when you make a sale, make sure you check that it’s properly logged in your seller account. To be extra safe, you could even wait for the funds to enter your account – although some online stores require the goods to be received before releasing payment.
Malware is malicious software that is unwittingly installed on the scammee’s computer, allowing the scammer to steal personal details, such as passwords and bank account numbers.
You’re most at risk if you use an outdated browser, often visit gambling sites, or if you don’t use a firewall. However, malware scammers can be sneaky, and even the savviest net natives can be tricked.
How to avoid
Make sure you have a firewall installed on your network and use an internet browser with inbuilt protection. You could also consider installing anti-malware software.
Phishing is the process of fraudulently acquiring personal information. The most basic scams involve fake emails that request sensitive information – but as the population becomes more web-savvy, scammers have had to get a little more creative.
Phishers may replicate website login pages for banks, social media sites or online selling platforms, giving the site a slightly different URL to the legitimate version. When the user enters their password, this goes straight to the scammer, who can then use it to log on to the scamee’s genuine account.
How to avoid
Save login links to your bookmarks and make sure any URLs you follow are genuine by cross-referencing your list. Be particularly wary when being asked to login to a site which you usually remain logged in to.