Sadly, the rise of the Internet has provided scammers with new, innovative scam schemes designed to take place without the victim even noticing it until he/she gets their credit card statement or phone bill. Some of these theft methods are very elaborate and recognizing them can sometimes get tricky, but there are several simple, yet essential precautions you can take in order to reduce your chances of being scammed.
As a rule of thumb, do not disclose any personal information regarding private life and bank account details to unverified third parties; also, be wary of “great offers” that look too good to be true, especially if they require upfront information or payment.
Find below a list of the 10 most ravaging scam schemes! Learn how to identify them and discover how to take appropriate measures, so that you will not be the next victim on the scammers’ long lists.
1. Paying in advance for a guaranteed loan
If you are required to pay an up-front fee when applying for a pre-approved loan, remember that this not something a bank would normally do. Remember that reputable and trust-worthy crediting institutions do charge annual fees, but it is always to be paid after, not before the signing-up procedures.
Next time you decide to consider a seemingly advantageous pre-approved loan, ask yourself: how come you are being offered massive credit limits, when the credit provider is not even aware of your credit and income situation. This sounds like common sense, but far too many people take the bait and fall into the trap of paying the upfront-fee, being pressured by financial problems that will only get worse. Be careful – this scam scheme is also used when applying online for a credit card!
2. Fake Lottery Prizes
Chances are you have already received at least one email saying that you won a substantial prize. These scams may also take the name & logo of genuine national lotteries. Basically, it works like this: people receive unsolicited phone calls or emails announcing they have entered into a prize draw. A couple of hours later, they receive a call congratulating them on winning a big prize which can be claimed after the payment of several administrative fees and taxes – some hundred dollars, next to nothing if compared with the prize; but obviously, there is no prize at all.
Next time you get such an announcement, keep in mind that no genuine lottery ever has asked for payments before delivering the prize; also, if you won the big pot (or a smaller one, it does not really count), you will not get your notification by email. Last but not least: don’t let the visions of a fabulous future life blur your mind – how could you have won a lottery you haven’t even entered in the first place?
3. Multilevel Marketing Scams
Also known as “pyramid schemes”, these scams promise you everything for virtually nothing. Their ads scream “Make Money Now” all over the Internet in pop-ups offering you the promise of quick, big bucks for almost no effort in exchange. Well, if this is not enough to make you aware you are facing scam, learn why it is: multilevel marketing is based on offering financial rewards together with the return of an initial investment, based on how many new recruits you add to the pyramid schemes. Investors are being deluded with the prospects of their likely returns; since there are not enough people to support the scheme, the initial investment is lost from the very beginning.
4. “Get Rich Soon” and “Work from Home” schemes
The promise of easy-money should always signal to you there is a hidden catch out there. This also applies to “work from home” schemes, which require the payment of initial training materials. Alternatively, you may receive free (but worthless) files explaining their process of gaining money and in order to begin “getting rich” the receiver will be asked to cover some initial fees. Obviously, the victim will soon discover the money is gone and there was no real job from the very beginning.
5. Nigerian Family
This scheme is generically called the “Nigerian Family Scam” because of the story designed to cover the trickery: a Nigerian wealthy family addresses to you, by email, a desperate cry of help in transferring a huge amount of money out of Nigeria. However, the same trick lies behind other variations to the story, like the African widow claiming she wants to make donations of millions of dollars worth to a good church or charity institution.
Regardless of the more or less emotional story deployed, the victim is promised obscenely large sums of money in exchange for some small tasks. Literally, another “too good to be true” scam that should put you on guard and delete the email from the very beginning, without further reading. Sadly, there are still people who fall for this money transfer trap and do as told: they send money to cover for endless fake fees and taxes that must be paid to the people able to release their promised share of money.
Of course, the more they are willing to transfer, the more the victims will get their accounts emptied. Somebody tell the naives that this scam is not even new! It was already making its first victims in the 1920s, when they used the story of a Spanish prisoner.
6. Fake Medical Alert
Con games are also on telemarketing (and, allow us to say, they are very much so)! Using teleshopping schemes, they target older people who don’t really get to spend a lot of time on the Internet , so they get a trick scheme designed for them only! This particular scheme comes with the promise of getting a “free” medical alert devices and system; the victim is called and told that they will get these gadgets for free because a family member or a friend has already paid for them. It’s just that they need to provide with their bank account and credit card details in order to “verify” their identity and be charged with a small, but not-so-small monthly fee of a few tens of dollars.
It’s easy to figure out that those accepting these terms and conditions will never get any medical alert system and will be left with a fee virtually impossible to be refunded. Teach your elder ones to never disclose their banking details upfront and be very wary of “free offers~ – there are no free devices, just as there is no free lunch! Also, keep in mind that you should always check with the one who has supposedly paid for the products or service.
7. Identity Theft Scams
Identity theft is incredibly common nowadays and relatively easy to fall for, if you are not aware about the existence of these cons. So we recommend you to pay extra-attention the next time you will get an email that looks like it is sent by a trust-worthy real bank, credit card company or communications company, containing links to a website where you are required to update your account details.
This is called “phishing” and is basically a trickery designed by digital thieves, making you believe you confirm your account info while you are actually divulging them, thus making your money extremely vulnerable. It is very common that the need to confirm your information is really urgent; they may also frighten you with the prospect of something bad happening if you refuse to do so, and they may even use stories about how your account has been hacked.
The confidential information you are likely to enter on those fake websites resembling reliable Citibank, eBay or PayPal pages is later intercepted by the scammers that will take whatever is available in the disclosed account.
How to prevent this: phishing fake pages will only have http:// (not https://, as the real pages) at the beginning of their link address. If you are still unsure, call your financial institution to check if the email is real and, in the meantime, don’t trust suspicious emails. Skepticism can really save you a lot of money!
8. Fake Foreign Currency Investments
Scammers can get pretty creative! They often use real current news and events happening on the foreign currency markets in order to make their stories more reliable. They trick their victims into making seemingly safe investments in unusual currencies, such as the Iraqi Dinar, the Vietnamese Dong or, most recently, the Egyptian Pound, being told that some foreseen governmental action will increase their value against the dollar. You may also actually get in the possession of real currency, but you will find yourself with money very difficult to sell and with highly unlikely chances of increasing in worth.
9. Ebay or PayPal scams
If you listed for sale an expensive item on online websites, the scammers may take advantage of your ad and email you an offer to pay a bigger amount of money than your requested price, motivating the overpayment with international transfer or shipping fees; in return, you will be asked to send him your product and the cash covering the difference.
So you receive a money order that looks real (it may even be real, but never authorized by a bank), but you will soon find out that it was fake money and your bank will ask you to pay them back immediately. It is usually a convincing forgery, which makes the victim lose both the money and the product put for sale.
10. Modern jacking
This scam will secretly change the phone number dial-up modems used for accessing the internet, while pretending to transfer it to an overseas or seemingly much cheaper number. However, once disclosing the details of your contract with your phone company to a third part, you may receive bills hundreds of dollars higher.