Thousands of new users log on to the Internet everyday, expecting quality information, easier communication and up-to-date notifications. What they don't expect however, are hundreds and thousands of scammers who're out there trying to snatch hold of some innocent user's money. And why just new users? Even folks who've been around a while have fallen prey to the lure of a quick buck.
To remain safe and scam-free, it's important to know what's real and what isn't. More importantly, don't be taken in for “once in a lifetime” opportunities. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here are some of the latest scams on the Internet that people are regularly falling for.
The Nigerian (419) Scam
There was a lot of heated discussion and numerous news reports on this one last year, but it still continues to grow. Basically, an “official” from Nigeria or some other country sends you an email telling you a sob story and offering a large sum of money to open up a bank account. He asks for your help in transferring some money (usually in millions) from his country to yours and offers a generous percentage of that money to you. You end up paying endless fees to the scammer, and sometimes even going to the person's country, and getting stranded there!
What to do: If you receive emails for assistance, simply ignore them. The more you get involved, the harder they'll make it for you to walk away.
Ever received an email from your bank asking you to log on their secure sit and re-enter all your personal information? Delete it now! It's a scam. Banks, financial entities or any companies that have access to your personal information will rarely ask you to verify it by email. What is actually happening is that scammers set up websites, very much like the actual ones to convince you that they're real. Once they get all your information, it can be used to make payments in your name or even steal your identity.
What to do: If you're unsure about the origins of the email, call your bank and ask them.
Even extortion threats these days are getting new-agey! Another cyber crime that's been concerning officials lately starts out with an office worker receiving emails that threaten to take over his or her PC and install child pornography images, unless a fee is paid. This fee is usually modest—in the range of $20-30. Many workers panic and assume they'll get into trouble or lose their jobs. But this only brings the fraudsters back for more.
What to do: If you receive such an email, notify your boss immediately. That will not only ensure that you stay out of trouble, but will also help your boss take legal action.
A shocking report by the Federal Trade Commission claims that approximately one in every 50 consumers has been a victim of identity theft! Identity theft is when a fraudster gains access to your personal and confidential information and uses it to commit various kinds of fraud. Of course, since everything's done in your name, you're liable to answer for it. This leaves you to pay enormous bills, take the brunt for crimes or even be left to prove that you're the real you.
What to do: Don't give out your personal information either online or offline without checking who you're giving it to. Also, review your credit card and bank statements carefully.
Fake Third-Party Endorsements
Endorsements are a great way to add credibility to the sales of your product. After all, it's easier to sell a beauty cream, when say Madonna's vouching for it. But on the Net, many endorsements that you find aren't genuine. That's why you'll often come across websites claiming to have products endorsed by the US Small Business Association or Consumer Reports, even though these organizations have a no-endorsement policy.
What to do: To find out whether an endorsement is actually true, call up the endorsing organization and ask. Or you could visit their Website, where you'll find a lot of valuable information.
Feeding on the Unemployed
If a potential employer emailed you for more details—including your Social Security number, bank account number or mother's maiden name— just so that he could do a routine background check, would you give it? If you've recently been laid off, and are desperate for a new job, you probably wouldn't think twice. And that's what scammers are taking advantage of. Because in all likelihood, this prospective “employer” is actually a scammer.
What to do: Employers don't need your personal information before they've recruited you, so you can safely delete the email. If you're still unsure, do a little googling to find out whether such a company even exists or not. If it does, call up the company and confirm it.
The Lottery Scam
Imagine winning the lottery. And then getting ripped off bare for it! That's what happened to many people who fell for the Massachusetts Lottery Scam. This is how it works: you receive an email informing you that you've won the Massachusetts Lottery of $30,000 (the lottery is real; the email isn't). You're asked to click the link to the “official” website. Only, this isn't the official site. After you enter a username and password, you're asked to pay a gaming tax of $500 if you're in the US, $100 if outside. You'll be required to give your credit card number, social security number and other personal information.
What to do: You're not going to be notified by email if you win the lottery. Even more important is the fact that lottery tickets are purchased by cash; there's absolutely no need for the lottery organization to ask for your credit card information.
Bouquets of AOL
Here's a virtual bouquet that's thrown right back in your face. You open your email to find AOL telling you that you've been charged for flowers that you didn't order. But wait, says the email. We're so kind as to let you click on a link and cancel that charge. Great, you think. You didn't order it, so you shouldn't be charged for it. But for that you need to fill in a form stating your screen name, password and of course, credit card information. See where I'm going with this? But clicking on that link could have even more fatal effects. It could cause you to download a virus that'll wipe out your entire hard drive.
What to do: First off, if you've been charged wrongly, you should take up the issue after it appears on your statement. Secondly, unless you're absolutely sure, call up the company and ask them about it.
A little caution is always better than a lot of regret. So when browsing the Internet or checking your mail, remember this rule of thumb: Keep one finger on the delete button. It can be your best friend.