Last but not least are online scams. These are in an altogether different category than misleading advertisement or offers and can be very dangerous. Online scams are cyber-crime acts that generally aim at obtaining a person’s banking information or at convincing them to transfer big sums of money. They are orchestrated by scammers who ruthlessly prey on our weaknesses and it is fundamental to be able to recognize them in order to avoid falling for one.
Here are some examples of the most common types of online scams:
- Phishing scam
Phishing is the most common type of online scan out there. We probably all have received one of these shady e-mails asking us to click on a link and just ignored them. However, it is important to stay alert when it comes to phishing, because some scammers are more refined than others and will use e-mails which look like they come from your bank, from PayPal, from your mobile phone company, etc. These messages often contain a link that you’re asked to click and then ask you for your personal data, usually banking access codes. It is extremely important to be aware of this type of scams, as they can cost you a lot of money! In order to protect yourself, always check the e-mail address from which you received the e-mail: does it look right? What pops up if you search it on Google? If you’re still not sure, call your bank and ask: did they send this message? Remember, its would be very strange that these companies actually ask you to enter sensible data with this system.
- Online purchase scam
This is another classic! You’re scrolling your Instagram or Facebook home page and you see an ad for just exactly the phone/shoes/anything that you wanted to buy at only 25€?? It’s a steal, right? If you, like a lot of people, don’t think about it twice and proceed to buy the item, you will either have found the best deal ever or have been scammed. Chances are, in fact, that you will receive an e-mail a couple weeks later saying that your order is stuck at customs or that for whatever reason you need to pay an additional fee. If you do pay that, you’ll probably get another similar communication, and then another, until you realize you’re being scammed, and your order will never arrive – because it never existed in the first place. Whenever you buy something online, make sure to check the website, to see if it looks legit, you can also search it on google: if it is a scam someone probably signalled it already. In any case, if you do fall for it the first time and buy something on a shady website, don’t fall for the following e-mails and give them more money.
- Make money easy scam
We all dream of becoming rich without making efforts, and scammers know that very well! The “get rich fast” is a very successful one and it can appear in many forms: you can get an e-mail saying you won a lottery (although you never bought a ticket), but in order to access your astronomic win you need to pay a transaction fee (which can be several thousands of euros high, but what’s a couple thousand euros if compared to millions, right?); or you may get told that some far away relative of yours you’ve never heard of passed away and left you an incredible sum of money, which, again, you need to pay to access. Another technique is the “work from home” one, this is constantly advertised in pop ups claiming they’ve found a system to make lots of money super easily, but in order to be hired you need to pay a fee upfront. Don’t fall for these scams, always remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it is! And that generally no one is dying to give you free money.
- Love scam
Love scams are also quite common. Victims would be approached by a seemingly incredibly attractive woman or man (who usually wouldn’t exist or would be someone else whose pictures are being used without their knowledge or consent) on social media or dating websites. The scammers will spend a lot of time and attention in order to trick the victim into developing an emotional attachment and into believing that they have too. They will go as far as setting up a whole romantic relationship and then suddenly pretend that they need money for a medical emergency, for buying a plane ticket for finally meeting the victim, or will ask the victim to buy them presents, etc. Always be aware of these kinds of situations and try to check the existence of people who approach you on social media: how many friends and interactions do they have on their profiles? How many pictures? If you ask them a picture of themselves with a specific background or object, can they provide it? And again, never give you banking information or do money transfers to strangers on the internet, chances are they’re trying to scam you.
It is important to note that scams are crimes, and if you realise you’re being a victim of one or that someone is trying to lure you into becoming a victim, you can signal them to your national postal police.