Why do people still fall for online scams? Most of us think we're too wise to let fraudsters fool us.
According to a recent survey done by the Better Business Bureau and other organizations, the outlook isn't good. It says one person out of ten in the U.S. will be a scam victim in the upcoming year.
So, here’s a little quiz for you:
- Do you know the five online scams that are working the best for con artists right now? Could you even make a list of three?
It’s important to know things like that—here’s why.
Surveys provide a ray of hope with the scam statistics. The good news is this: if we know what the top scams are, the harder it is to trick us. In other words, the more we know, the safer we are.
So, let’s look at the top five scams that fool people the most.
#1. Craigslist and eBay online purchase scams.
Face it: there’s risk involved any time you’re dealing with total strangers. That's especially when you’re making transactions with people you’re not meeting face to face. That’s why the possibility of a running into a scam is very high when selling or buying goods online.
There are scams on both sides of an eBay or Craigslist transaction, the two leading online purchase platforms. A fake seller, for instance, will list an item, collect your payment and never ship the goods or switch the product. A buying scammer will purchase an item from you, overpay “accidentally”—with a fake check. They'll then and ask you to send back the difference…in cash. Those are just two scenarios out of dozens upon dozens.
You can find a lot of information online about eBay and Craigslist scams and tricks to look out for. And it’s not always about the merchandise. To avoid troubles, experts offer up simple and effective advice. They say don't give important details about yourself or bank account to anyone. Not only that, they say you should try to deal locally and with people you have met.
Online purchase scams work extremely well for fraudsters because the victims virtually raise their hands saying, “I’m here,” by posting goods for sale or showing interest in buying an item. If you’re new to eBay or Craigslist, be sure you first read a few articles on the do’s and don’ts of buying and selling, and of sending or accepting payments.
#2. Fake tech support scams
Here’s a scam that uses fear to motivate victims into forking over money. After all, nothing worries us more than having a deadly virus on our computers, such as ransomware. Tech support scams trick you into believing you have malware lurking on your computer. To fix the “problem” they’ve identified, you’ll need to send them money to pay for the repairs—or run the risk losing all your data.
Scammers will play dirty, too. Often times, they will make you believe that Microsoft—the world’s leading software developer—is reaching out to you with a pop-message, an email or phone call. In India in 2018, police raided ten illegal call centers and arrested dozens of scammers who were running a very sophisticated tech support center! Police found live chat apps and scripts for calling and fooling victims.
Microsoft is aware of the problem and, according to their own consumer research, victims of fraudulent Microsoft tech support usually pay (and lose) anywhere between $150 and $500 for worthless tech support. If you see a pop-up ad or a warning screen saying your computer has been infected, ignore it, say the experts. That’s not only a scam, but it’s usually the gateway to a link that might infect your computer!
#3. Employment/job scams
Job hunters beware, especially if you’re a little desperate for work. Scammers masquerading as employers are eager to meet you.
Many people who think they’ve just gotten a legitimate job, soon end up losing money or having their identity stolen, without ever making any money. And often, those getting scammed are the ones who need money the most! Perhaps they were even joyous that, at last, they were able to land work!
Here are just three possible clues that the job you see posted might be a scam: 1) they don't make you take and interview. 2) It promises good money for not a lot of hours or hard work 3) you can start immediately. (You can see how those features could seem to be beneficial for many job seekers and lure people into the scam.)
Here's what happens if your new job isn't real. You'll get a sizable initial check to buy supplies, for instance. But wait! They ask you to send some money to another employee, out of your own pocket. Of course, they paid you with a worthless check. (Read the next section for more on that.) And sometimes it’s more than money you lose. You give the scammer all your valuable personal information on the job application. They have your Social Security number, drivers license number, home address, and more.Online Scams: The 5 Cons and Frauds that Fool People the Most. #top5scams #onlinescams Click To Tweet
#4. Money order and fake-check scams
Money orders and checks are at the heart of several scam types…and a tip-off that there could be something wrong.
The situation is this: you find yourself receiving a check or a money order (maybe for selling an item online, or as part of a new job) and you’re asked to deposit the check in your bank account—but before you do that, the sender tells you to wire or transfer some of the amount back to you. Or maybe you are told to send a portion of the money to someone else.
Why? You were overpaid, you’re told; they sent you $300 instead of $200. Or it’s your first paycheck for $500, and you need to send back $200 for supplies. They might say, “Just deposit the check and send the money. It will all work out.” So, you send the money, and deposit the check in your bank. Of course, you find out in a few days that they sent you a bad check or a fake money order.
You lose twice. For one, you owe the bank the amount they initially gave you (if any), and you lost the money you wired back to the con. To avoid this predicament, NEVER send money to anyone until you make sure they’re check has cleared.
#5. Phony sweepstakes and prize scams
This scam works well for con artists once they get a target interested…and that’s pretty easy for them to do. The cons reach out to people, often the most vulnerable or needy, with the news and the promise of sweepstakes winnings—sometimes in the thousands or even millions of dollars. It all sounds and looks convincing. There’s a catch, of course.
To get the money, the “winners” must first pay a small upfront fee to claim their prize. That fee might be $10 or $200.
In Missouri, not long ago, the State government shut down a fake sweepstakes that tricked senior citizens into giving scammers millions of dollars. As a director of the FTC said, the older adults “paid money to collect prizes that never materialized.”
This scam, as you might expect, deceives those who are in a financially insecure situation—where a “miracle” influx of cash could be a life changer.
Here’s the main thing to remember: it is not possible for you to win a sweepstakes or contest that you didn’t enter. If someone tells you you’ve won a sweepstakes you didn’t enter—in a letter, email or text—don’t fall for it. Report it instead!
Don’t let your friends and family become victims. There are two things you can do right now.
- Follow the Easy Prey podcast. Each week you can learn more about scams and online dangers avoid them.
- Share this information with your friends and family. Help keep everyone you know safe.
You can find the Easy Prey podcast on iTunes, Google Play and other media player platforms.
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The more you know, the safer you are.