Internet Scams: Protecting Yourself

There seem to be a million unique scams that crop up every year on the internet, and as we get more savvy in avoiding them, the scammers become more clever in creating them.  Regardless, the first line of protecting yourself is your education of the most common types of scams. In this article, we will educate you about four particular types of online scams:

Financial Scams

 

A financial scam involves tricking their target into sending the scammer money under false pretenses.  Sometimes, the scammer will take on the identity of a family member or close friend.
Merchandise Scams A merchandise scam is often “A GREAT DEAL” that ends in the next 60 seconds, and results in no actual merchandise, or a non-returnable and inferior product than what was ordered.
Romance Scams Online social networking and dating sites have given Romance Scammers a wide audience to draw from.  These scammers create false profiles and initiate relationships with their targets, ultimately asking them to send money to them.
Predatory Scams Predatory Scammers are typically seeking your personal information or seeking a target’s signature on contracts. If they can collect private details about your life, your financial affairs, and your identification, the scammer can not only create false accounts in your name, but sell your information to others who also have ill intentions.

Financial Scams

Surprising as it seems, the messages from the Nigerian Prince who needs to transfer a large sum of money out of the country are still coming in.

If you could just have your bank transfer $10,000 to cover the costs involved, you will be repaid TEN TIMES your investment when the transfer is complete”.

Hey, if the 419 (advance-fee fraud) still works, why give it up?

Over the past few years, these scammers are requesting funds more often by those representing themselves to be your own travelling family members, close friends, contractors, or even our nation’s military personnel.   Typically, the scammer will send it’s target an “urgent message” email from one of your friends or family — and the email shows it was sent from your friend’s actual email address!   These scams can appear quite legitimate.

When you call Tom and learn that he is not, in fact, in London, but he is actually at soccer practice with his kids down the street from you, you might let him know that his email account has been accessed and his address book pilfered.  As for Tom, his next step should be to alert everyone in his address book of the scam.

 Merchandise Scams

The FBI 2015 Internet Crime Report indicated that teenagers are an increasing market for merchandise scams.   On most online video games, social media sites, media sharing, and video websites, popup or embedded advertising are rampant.  Often these are legitimate advertisements for legitimate products, but once in a while there is an offer presented that “You Cannot Possibly Refuse.”

Impulse-buying headsets, electronics, software, prom dresses, and video games can lead to not only receiving inferior mass-produced products but also to theft of credit card information.  Good advice from the Identity Theft Resource Center:  “It’s important that parents and schools open the discussion about the potential dangers of being online” when it comes to making purchases.

There are also pop-up advertisements that ask you to purchase an item that you need or want for a price that is well below any price you’ve ever seen before.  These ads claim that if you purchase this now (sometimes with a countdown timer for reference) you can be one of the few people who could claim their prize “for only $129!!”

Romance Scams

Online dating sites operate under certain requirements intended to give some degree of protection to the users.  Filters and searches are used to cull out obvious scammers; registered sex offender lists are checked.  This system is of great assist when true names are used, clumsy schemes are laid out, and information provided contains inappropriate language.  If you believe that all scam artists and predators are honest, then you can proceed without caution.

However, in the real world, caution is required for most aspects of living.  This is especially true of entering into online romance.  The failure and sometimes danger of online dating arrangements are that the only information you have about a potential “match” is provided by that same person, and you have no way of knowing if they are presenting themselves truthfully or not.

It’s estimated that more than one-half of those using online dating sites include incorrect or false information in their profile.  These inaccuracies could be just typing errors, but–in the worst and most common cases– they can deliberately be intended to deceive.  The intent may simply be to “puff-up” a otherwise bland profile.  Or it could be setting the stage for a scam.

To attempt to accomplish a home version of a background check is not often a good use of time.  For one thing, scammers can be very good at their craft, and they know how to “back up” their story.  Often, they will establish another account (e.g., Facebook) with the same information as was provided to you.  When you see the same information twice, it must be true, right?

Overseas romance scammers are almost always after money.  They will typically move the contact with their victim to personal email accounts; they will never be available for face-to-face meetings; they are prepared to carry on a relationship for a long period of time, in order to build trust.  Likely, they have several “romances” going on at the same time.

These scams are often accomplished in tandem with a “romance,” with the romance being the kick-off point:

“I have fallen in love with you over these past months. I have never felt this way before. Can you send me $250 to fix my computer so we can still chat?”

And later, the victim receives a larger request

I want very much to get back to Des Moines to be with you.  If you could loan me $5,000, I will be able to come.  Of course, it is just a loan, which I will re-pay, as soon as I get back on my feet. I can’t wait to see you!

 

The actual facts are, of course, that the original small “loan” request was just a test of the waters.  Success means that the groundwork has been laid for a much larger amount.  Romance scams can have a genesis in the obituaries or the divorce columns, which means that the victims in these cases will likely be over the age of 50.  Scam artists are very willing to targeting the grieving and brokenhearted.

Internet Predators

So much has been said on this, but these sad events still occur.  A meeting with an online date in a non-public place, without telling someone where you are going, and when, and the name of the person being met.  A child drawn into an online conversation with a stranger.  An elderly person accepting domestic help from a person unknown to the family.  These events still happen.

Talk to your children about online predators, and monitor their online access.  Be smart when meeting strangers–always a public place, always preceded by providing information to family or friends.  Check on your parents or elderly friends, and ensure that–unless they are fully competent–they cannot execute a check or legal document without your presence.

Bottom Line:   Take care of yourself.  Get help/assistance when needed.  Take care of your family.

IF YOU IDENTIFY AN INTERNET SCAM

The first rule:  Report the scam.  The first reaction to learning that you’ve been “suckered” is often deep embarrassment.  “I’ve been such a fool.  I don’t want anyone to know.”  So, the scam–and the loss–goes unreported.  You’ve been taken advantage of, and the perpetrator is going to get away with an assault on your person, your wallet, or your feeling of security.  Don’t let this happen.  Report the scam to the police, the Better Business Bureau, your bank…whomever is appropriate.  If there is money involved, try to stop a check from being cashed, or a funds transfer from being completed.  If it’s merchandise, contact the company and/or the website.  Do this for yourself and for those victims yet to be.

 

 

 

© Copyright 2016  David Brown & Aegis Investigative Solutions, Inc. 

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