The digital world is as real as the real world, except we do not present there physically. The same goes for the threats that we face online. They are equally devastating. Remember the time when our parents told us not to talk to strangers online? Well, the piece of advice seems absurd at that time. In our fantasy world, everyone is nice, but in reality, it is the polar opposite. As the world is constantly digitizing, it is safe to assume that some sinister souls are also lurking around to disrupt the balance. Hence, as the internet progressed, online scams are also progressing. The dangers are not only in the dark alleyways, but also in our emails, favorite shopping websites, and/or social media accounts.
Fast forward into 2018, people around the world lost over $800 million to internet scams. The number is hauntingly high. These scams have left an impact on people in general. We are a firm believer of “knowledge is the only thing that brings the light to the world.” Hence, we are going to share the most common types of internet frauds that make people’s life miserable.
Types of internet frauds-
Everyone in their life has received some phishing emails. Some might be easy to spot, but there is some phishing email that you cannot spot. It would seem genuine, or it comes from an authentic source like someone you know or an e-commerce website. It is one of the most common cybersecurity issues in today’s world. Phishing is an attempt to get sensitive information like bank account details, social security numbers, etc., from you in order to scam you.
It comes in all shapes and sizes. For example- you could get an email from the “IRS” stating that you may be charged a huge amount of fine, or someone else has hacked your account. Every phishing email that you get, there is one thing in common, and that is, they demand information that is confidential to you. They will create a sense of urgency in order to extract information from you, and then the scam takes advantage of you. It is practically impossible to safeguard yourself from these phishing emails because they may seem genuine. Hence, the best course of action would be to cross-verify the source before giving out the details.
It is random, and hence it is difficult to prevent. In these kinds of internet fraud, you get emails from the companies that try to sell you a product with no intentions of actually sending those products after you initiate the payment. You may receive the confirmation email, and you will get the product within few working days like the traditional e-commerce website, but once you pay the money, you will never hear from them ever again. These kinds of scams will reach you via email or social media platform that offers high-end luxury products at the price of peanuts. It is always a red flag. Now, if you ever find yourself on a website that you have never visited before, it does not necessarily mean that they are fraud, but to be on the safe side, you should always research before initiating the payment. Also, check that the website is secure by looking at the web URL.
Bitcoin and cryptocurrency-
A few years back, cryptocurrency took the world by storm. Bitcoins are the famous ones that almost everyone has heard. Even though the majority of people know what is cryptocurrencies, but there are a few people who truly understand how it works. Hence, it is the golden opportunity for cybercriminals to extort money out of you and, in worst cases, your personal information.
In most of these investment frauds, the scammers would reach out to you and encourage you to invest in an upcoming company. They will ask you to invest in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO). The hackers will convince you that you will get rich quickly, and in exchange for your money, you will get a stake in the company so, you will become part owners.
Sometimes these companies actually exist, but in the majority of the cases, these companies are fictitious.
Fine Print Scams-
Have you ever visited a website that does not have any terms and conditions? Well, nearly every service that we use has that to which we must agree. They are long with full of technical terms that are enough to confuse us. As a result, most of us click the “Yes” or “I Agree” button without thinking it through.
However, there are chances that the less reputable companies will put things in the fine print, which gives them the right to extort money out of your pocket. Let’s understand how fine print scams would ruin us all. For example- you subscribe to a service, and in fine print, it may say that after one month, you would have to pay an additional service charge to continue to enjoy the subscription. Usually, these additional service fees are exorbitant. Many people fell victim to these kinds of internet frauds regularly.
It is not kidnapping in the traditional sense, but we cannot deny the fact that it is scary. In these types of internet frauds, the cybercriminals/hackers will take control over your social media profiles then, they will contact you and demand payment. If you do not pay them, they will not return access to your social media profiles, and in worst cases, they will threaten to leak all your sensitive information or damaging content on the internet. It is enough for anyone to pay them whatever amount of money these hackers will demand.
If by unfortunate luck you fell victim to this internet fraud, then the best thing you can do is contact the social media platform and report the incident to them.
Bad Downloads/Fake Antivirus Software
When you surf on the internet, technically the files do not get into your computer because it is displayed on the servers. However, the moment you hit the download button, those files get stored on your computer. If you download anything from untrusted websites, then the chances are you end up with some nasty malware or ransomware on your computer.
It is software that is developed by cybercriminals to collect information from your computer. It hinders the optimum working of your computer that ultimately costs you money. Another prime example of Bad Downloads is ransomware. It is software that will encrypt all your essential files on your computer, and it won’t open until you those criminals the money they are asking. The hackers will scam you by sending a pop-up that mentions that your computer is infected with a virus. It will then instruct you to install software to protect your PC, but in reality, you will end up with a virus. The best thing to do in this case is to avoid such messages or install genuine antivirus software.
Dating and Romance Scams-
Loneliness can make you do inexplicable things. Humans are social animals, and to survive in society one must need to interact with people regularly. Cybercriminals know this and are ready to take advantage of people’s vulnerability. These devious hackers will set up an online dating account, and they work to build a relationship. Once they are successful in maintaining the relationship with them, then the trouble begins for the victim. These soulless cybercriminals will demand money from you, and you will be tempted to do because you have grown to care for this person. According to a survey, in 2018, Americans lost almost $143 million in online dating scams. According to the same survey, the average money lost by the people is a whopping $21000.It is one of the most common online scams.
We cannot foresee the natural calamity, but we can avoid the scams that come after that. In these types of online scams, the scammers will ask you for donations because of a natural disaster or catastrophe. In reality, all these charities do not exist, and any donation you made in favor of them will never reach the people in need. Instead, it will go into someone else’s pocket. You can avoid this altogether by opting for genuine charities like The Red Cross.
How not to fall victim?
These are the most common types of online fraud that people fall victim to it. Even if you are well-versed with the old ones, chances are new ones will emerge every day. It is practically impossible to be on top of all the latest cyber threats. Hence, it is a need of the hour to stay safe while surfing through the internet. One wrong move can jeopardize your life both mentally as well as financially. Here are some of the ways you can follow to safeguard yourself from online scams.
Not every object that shines is gold-
Scammers are the masters in exploiting human psychology. If by any chance, you stumble upon the deal that is “too good to be true.” then the chances are it is a scam.
Avoid using shady sites-
You should avoid visiting untrusted websites because you never know it will harm your computer in so many ways.
Use Antivirus Software-
The best way to avoid being the victim of these soulless cybercriminals is to use genuine antivirus software. It will warn you when you visit untrusted or shady websites, and in most cases, it will block the viruses or malware before it is too late.
You should avoid public Wi-Fi, but if you have to use it, then use it with a VPN. Public Wi-Fi is the common gateway for these scammers to scam you. They will infect your computer and can do a lot of damage.