Most people think they’ll never fall for a scam. In fact, that frame of mind is precisely what scammers are looking for. Those who believe that they know better, are often the last to raise their defenses when criminals are nearby. Yes, people lose a lot of money online. Multi – million $$ of it! They wire cash to London, they can’t help investigating the one-in-a-million chance they really are related to a dead prince from Africa, and they sometimes even travel to Nigeria to find out. Just in case.
Many of the scams you read about are sensational, such as the silly “hit man” scam created by real amateurs (recipients get an e-mail that says “send all your money or they will kill you”). And you’ve also seen lists that offer oddly skewed results, such as the recent FBI announcement that scammers pretending to be FBI agents are now the most prevalent Internet crime. One would think that those numbers are a bit exaggerated because victims of FBI scams are a bit more likely to report those scams to the agency.
Fantastic stories like these only serve to convince many consumers to let their guard down even more, helping to increase the pool of marks for the professional scammers. In fact, every single victim says they had an idea that something was wrong from the outset, but they ignored that feeling. That’s why the single most important factor in avoiding fraud is this: Learn to trust your gut feelings.
Here are the top 5 ways cyber-thieves separate people from their money.
1. Online Dating Scams
Love-based scams are the easiest to perpetrate. Why? Because love always involves a leap of faith — trusting something you can’t see or touch. Just like Internet scams. For years, criminals have made haunts out of dating services and lonely-hearts chat rooms. Broken-hearted people are rarely in their best of mental health, so they make easy targets.
In reality, men could learn a lot from scam-artist lovers. They send flowers and candy constantly while wooing a mark (purchased with stolen credit cards, of course). Gifts really do put women in an agreeable state of mind; professional scammers have proven that umpteen times.
Some net- criminals spend months grooming their targets, waiting until after several “I love you” messages, before asking for thousands of $ to be wired to the passport office in London or Africa to help clear up a paperwork mess so he can come to his lady love for a visit.
Yes, it all sounds ridiculous. It’s not. It’s so profitable that criminals actually pay monthly fees on some dating services. Generally, the more you pay for a service the fewer criminals you’ll see, and free internet personal ads tend to be a cesspool. But I’ve heard of victims who never joined a dating service but were still conned into fake love from perfectly innocent-sounding places like Facebook groups or chat rooms devoted to hobbies like stitching or horses. Love is blind; it’s also really, really stubborn.
For a whole lot more on this insidious, more-common-than-you’d-believe crime, visit http://romancescams.org/ The group, founded by former victims, has been fighting back for nearly 14 years. They post blacklisted photos there, e-mail addresses and typical opening lines from scammers, and lots of additional helpful scam-fighting tools. If you fall in love and have any doubts, visit the site.
2. Fake or “rogue” Anti-Virus Software
We’ve all seen the pop-ups: “Your computer is infected! Get help now!”
If you’ve ever clicked through such an ad (really, a hijacking), you know that the price for freedom is $25 to $50 a month. At first, the ads were clunky and the threats idle. But now, many pop-ups are perfect replicas of windows you would see from Microsoft or an antivirus product. Some sites actually employ so-called ransom-ware, which disables your PC until you pay up or disinfect it with a strong antivirus product. That’s why consumers forked over hundreds of millions of dollars to fake antivirus distributors in 2015, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
Your best bet to stay safe? Make a plan now. There is always that one scam that just about anyone can fall for. The best protection of all is to back up your important files, so the day your computer is hacked; your digital life won’t be compromised. It’s also important to have a fire extinguisher nearby. A second PC or laptop is often your best help when disaster strikes. Many viruses disable Internet access, so you’ll need a second computer to research your infection and download disinfectant software. Have a flash drive nearby, too, so you can move the inoculation from one computer to the other.
Meanwhile, if you aren’t paying for antivirus software, at least employ one of the popular free products like AVG or Windows Defender
3. Facebook Impersonation.
Facebook is no longer a Web site — it’s a full-fledged platform, rapidly approaching the scale of the Internet itself. Many young users spend more time on Facebook than on e-mail, and actually use Facebook as their e-mail service. That means scammers are now crawling all over the service, since they always go where the people go. There are hundreds of Facebook scams, such as phishing e-mails, Trojan horse infections, misleading advertisements and so on.
But the crime you should most worry about is Facebook impersonation. A criminal who hacks into your Facebook account can learn a staggering amount of information about you. Worse yet, he or she can gain trusted access to friends and family. We’ve seen plenty of stories that show Facebook friends can easily be tricked into sending money in response to believable pleas for help.
For this reason, it’s time to upgrade your Facebook password. Treat it like an online banking site, because it’s not a stretch to say that a criminal who hacks your Facebook account is only one small step away from stealing your money (“Hello, National Bank, I’ve lost my password. But my high school sport was Hockey and my mother’s maiden name is Bobo. Oh, and my first girlfriend’s name was Aaaaaaa. Can you reset the password now?”)
4. Becoming a Bot.
You may not know it, but your computer might be a criminal. Botnets — armies of hijacked home computers that send out spam or commit other crimes — remain the biggest headache for security professionals. The various botnets ebb and flow in size, but at any given time, tens of millions of computers on the Web are under the influence of a criminal. No one thinks it’s their PC, of course, but look at the odds. If one estimate claiming 100 million infections is accurate, then about one out of every 20 computers in the world is infected. In other words, someone in your extended family is aiding and abetting a spammer.
How can this be? Victims typically don’t notice the criminal activity. Cyber-thieves can easily use your machine without leaving a trace or slowing down your PC performance. They do not deposit e-mails in your sent items folder. Instead of sending 1 million e-mails from your machine, they send one e-mail every hour from 1 million infected machines.
Any honest antivirus company will tell you that there is so much new malicious software created every day that the good guys simply can’t keep up. The Web is jammed full of e-mails and Web sites that can turn your home computer into a bot. Your PC could very easily be safe today but at risk tomorrow. That’s why it’s so important to keep your computer’s security tools up to date. But you shouldn’t assume that this will keep you 100 percent safe. Avoid the Web’s dirtier side, and don’t let the kids download illegal music or games, a main source of infections. And always keep on the lookout for strange programs, files or surprising hiccups from your machine.
5) The FakeNet:
The Web is now littered with fake blogs, fake ads, fake products, fake work-at-home jobs and fake Web sites saying how great all these things are. You’ll even see ads for such products on all major media Web sites, as they’ve become the Web’s answer to late-night infomercials.
It’s always tempting to obey one rule that will make your tummy flat, or make your bank account fat or make your cancer disappear. But you can’t believe everything you read online. Never purchase a product without searching Google using this search term: “(Product name) scam” and “(Product Name) complaint.” Then, spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the reputation of the item you are about to buy and the price you are about to pay. One or two complaints against the product might say one thing, but hundred plus complaints should certainly scream at you that its a fake advert.
Here are a few other top scam lists worth checking:
* Top scams reported by http://www.moneycrashers.com/
* Hack into India’s Top Scams http://www.thehansindia.com/posts/index/Hyderabad-Tab/2016-03-15/A-hack-into-Indias-top-internet-scams/213678
* FBI top scams list https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes
By @sanjaymatkar ( www.matkar.net )
Pics courtesy: (1) privatejobhubs.in, (2) gizbot.com (3) fox6now.com (4) knowyourmeme.com (5) channelnewsasia.com (6) komando.com