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Spot that Internet Scam!

Spot that Internet Scam!
Mitali Sardesai

What do you think is the biggest technological invention of the 20th century? If you ask this question to someone, you will most probably get a quick reply – The Internet. The enormous information super-highway is not just an incredible platform to communicate with people but also it is a major catalyst for economic development. However, the widespread expansion of internet has also opened doors to different kinds of internet scams, which are becoming more and more common with time. As you login into your email account, you encounter offers and deals promising you millions of dollars or maybe a dream house at ridiculously low price. You might be surprised to know, these extremely genuine looking internet scams fool ten million victims every year and the scams result in a loss of five billion US dollars.

Spotting internet scams is not a difficult task. Here are a few common types of scams which you might have encountered while browsing the internet –

  • Shortcuts to Riches – There are many scams based on the concept of ‘get rich quick’. This is an old, cliché method of pitching the scam but it’s still quite effective. The scam is pitched in the form of a big, bold caption trying to grab your attention, saying that you can earn huge amounts of money just by a simple click or something very similar to that. If you join their network, they will ask you to pay without actually delivering any real service or product. The only way you might be able to recover your money will be by convincing more people to join the bogus network.
  • Double your Money Scams – These schemes are very similar to ‘Shortcut to Riches’ scams, but they focus more on recruitment. The promoter will first pull together payments from a set of people by promising them that their money will get doubled or they will get really high rate of interests on a short term investment. Then he forces you to convince more people to join their scheme. In reality, there is no investment. The promoter is simply using your money to pay the previous members of the scheme.
  • Phisher Scams – These types of scams are aimed at extracting sensitive, personal information from the victims such as their bank account details, ATM card numbers, pin numbers, passwords, etc. Once the scammers trick you into providing the information, they can easily use that information and steal money directly from your bank account. If you encounter an email saying that there is some sort of problem with your account and you need to provide them your bank details, immediately contact your bank and report the scam. Make sure you do not click on any links and also do not provide your passwords and pin numbers no matter how convincing the email sounds to you.
  • 419 Scams – These scams are promoted through email. You will receive an email where the scammer will seek your help in order to move around a large sum of money from a foreign bank account. They try to lure the target by saying that they will get a good amount of percentage in exchange of their help. If you reply back, they pull you deeper and deeper into the scam, weaving one story after another. The people who execute these scams are quite good in composing lies and convincing people to participate. At one point, they will ask you to cover the fees required for the processing of money to reach its final destination. They use dialogues such as – ‘the political policies of the country are preventing them from moving the funds’ or ‘a rich businessman with an incurable disease needs you to help in distribution of his wealth to various charities, before he dies.’
  • Lottery Scams – These types of scams are quite common to encounter. You will get an email saying you have won a lottery or you are the millionth or the billionth customer of a particular service or a brand and therefore a huge sum of money is waiting for you. If you reply back, the scammers will ask for your personal information saying that they want to make sure it’s you and no one else and ultimately, they will ask you to cover the expenses needed for moving the money.

How you can identify if it’s a Scam?

Scammers are clever people, once they identify that people have realized their schemes are nothing more than an internet fraud, they quickly introduce variations or they create new, better scams in order to extract the money from their potential victims. You can spot a scam by keeping in mind these simple pointers –

  • Ignore unsolicited emails that promise cash prizes or claim that you have won a competition or a lottery.
  • Ignore emails proposing lucrative business deals from unknown people.
  • Never share your personal details, bank account numbers, credit/debit card details, ATM pin numbers, passwords, etc with anybody online.
  • Never click on a suspicious link which says that it’s from your bank and needs you to login into your account.
  • Do not join schemes where you can make money by recruiting more members.
  • Ignore emails from unknown people who have not provided solid contact details of their own.
  • Listen to your intuitions! If you smell something fishy, quickly back off. Carry out some amount of research about the company before committing to anything.

By gathering more information regarding internet scams and by educating others as well, you can make a wonderful contribution in the fight the whole world is battling against internet fraud.

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