The Internet has had a profound effect on global society and has dramatically changed the world as it was once known adding many tangible and intangible benefits. However, unfortunately, these benefits are countered by some drawbacks too, and a notable one is Internet scams.
Generally Internet scams play on emotions or try to fill some sort of tangible need, such as money or other item that holds value. Individuals taken in by swindlers may be experiencing difficulties or vulnerabilities and may fall for a scam because often the scams are so cleverly worded they offer a sense of hope. Other tactics scammers use is to instill fear, or create an aura of sensationalism where the unsuspecting victim is too curious not to fall for the scam.
There are many various types of scammers taking up residence on the Internet just waiting to snag someone into their trap. Here are a few of the more prominent scams:
Unfortunately phishing has become a problematic issue. These thieves, also known as ‘phishermen’, use a combination of social engineering tactics in order to lure their victims with their bait. Phishing primarily comes in the form of email and contains links leading to fake websites (known as spoofing). Websites can also be found housed on the web as well enticing victims to share personal or sensitive information.
However the bait arrives, it usually is masked as something useful, desirable or, most often, masquerades as a legitimate business. Companies such as eBay, various banks, email servers Amazon and PayPal are frequent targets of phishermen and spoofed websites. This way victims think they are accessing legitimate businesses and enter information when requested. At this point the thief gets access to important accounts which can be used for identity or financial theft.
• Unclaimed property or funds scams
Currently reemerging in 2011 in various states in the U.S., the unclaimed property or fund scam preys on victims by telling them they have unclaimed valuable property. Instead, scammers are looking to pilfer personal information or steal money from you.
• Lottery scams
These scams are an old favorite for scammers. Contact mostly comes through email notifying the recipient that they have won a sum of money and often will be a ‘foreign’ lottery. In these notifications, the standard adage ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ should be remembered, especially if you do not recall entering a lottery. What happens is scammers generally do is tell you to send personal information so you can receive winnings, or they’ll ask for a small sum of money as a means to access the big money.
• Job scams
With the economic struggles people have been experiencing the last several years, scammers have concocted schemes to give people hope for work while their true intent is to steal from them. What the thieves want you to do is register to ‘work’ for them (often a foreign based company) and involves reselling or reshipping merchandise.
Applicants are asked for personal and sensitive information, which puts for risk for identity or financial theft. However, the scam kicks in when ’employees’ are sent checks which are for more money than the agreed upon salary. The victim is then instructed to mail the overpayment back to the ’employer’s’ bank. Problem is the check is no good, and not only is the victim left with no pay, but they’ve lost additional money as well through the overpayment and bank fees that accompany the check which was fraudulent.
• Nigerian letter scam
The FBI describes this scam as “Nigerian letter frauds combine the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter mailed from Nigeria offers the recipient the “opportunity” to share in a percentage of millions of dollars that the author—a self-proclaimed government official—is trying to transfer illegally out of Nigeria.”
Also known as ‘419’, this fraud has been circulating the Internet for some time, and also falls under the ‘if it sounds too good to be true’ rule of thumb. The scam promises you’ll be paid for your services. Basically scammers filter your money back to their country and you’ll never get ‘paid’. The 419 scam often plays on emotions, begging for your ‘help’, but then asks for your bank account information so they can send the money, and/or ask for fees.
There are many different types of Internet scams circulating. Other scams to watch out for are identity theft, auction fraud, credit card fraud, debt elimination, ponzi/pyramid, clickjacking (prominent on social networks) and various types of spam which request information. For more information on Internet scams, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a great resource to learn about the different types of scams and, also, where and how you can report them if you fall victim.