Online scams over the years have taken on several disguises like internet fraud, e-crime, online crime, consumer cybercrime, etc.
In 2018, there were more than 47,000 reported cases of scam, which has resulted in the loss of billions of dollars to fraudsters.
Reports from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) gives impressive figures on online scams. The report shows that 40% of people aged 20-29 were at one point in time victims of online fraud. The report also claims that senior citizens aged 70 and above recorded colossal loss to online fraudsters.
From these facts by FTC, it is clear that online scams do not focus on a particular age or income group but targets people of all ages, incomes, and backgrounds.
Therefore, I have decided to focus on 5 of the commonly perpetrated online scams.
5 Most Dangerous Online Scams
1. The Airbnb Scam
The Airbnb scam focuses on tourists looking to rent an apartment. Usually, the scammer features fake Airbnb apartments for rents using spoofed images of choice apartments, in some cases, at a ‘too good to be true’ price.
The scammer uses cloned Airbnb website (more like phishing) for payment. The unsuspecting victim is left stranded with no apartment or a refund.
How to detect Airbnb scam early enough
- Do not visit Airbnb site from any link in your email
- Watch out for Airbnb security features
- Check out the apartment to confirm the details before making a payment on the official Airbnb website.
2. Cryptocurrency scams
Bitcoin’s unprecedented rise in value to about $20,000 shifted the attention of online scammers to cryptocurrencies.
Online scammers employ fake cryptocurrency exchange platforms, Ponzi schemes, malware, hacking, and other means of scamming to defraud unsuspecting victims of their bitcoin collections.
Between 2017 and 2019, cryptocurrency exchange platforms have lost millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies to hacking.
How to protect yourself from cryptocurrency scams
- Use well-known and trusted cryptocurrency exchange platforms for trading. You can use more than one platform as a safety measure.
- Do not engage in crypto-based Ponzi schemes
- Be wary of opening links through your email
- Join a trusted crypto-based forum to keep you in touch with the latest happenings about cryptocurrencies.
- Protect your login details
3. Phishing scam
Phishing scam looks like genuine emails from your bank, financial institutions, paid services, etc. usually, such emails ask you to verify your details through the link given in the email. In some cases, you may be asked to download a file attachment.
Clicking on a link in a phishing email directs you to a ‘cloned’ website of your financial institution or any other paid services where you might have to log in with your details.
Such phishing websites harvest your details, which the scammer uses in defrauding you of your hard-earned money.
Downloading attachments in a phishing email installs malware that harvests your details from your computer.
How to detect and avoid phishing scam
- Phishing emails usually carry a tone of urgency. E.g., asking you to update your details before a specific date can be a red flag.
- Visit your financial institution’s official website for transactions
- Do not download suspicious file attachments or click on links from your email
- Financial institutions do not ask for credit card details, usernames, and passwords. Therefore, be wary of any site asking for such from you.
4. The Nigerian scam christened ‘419 scams.’
The Nigerian scam is one of the oldest online scams that have defrauded unsuspecting victims of about 13 billion dollars between 2013 and 2018.
This online scam is named ‘Nigerian scam’ for its origin, and it works by the greed factor and also appealing to the emotional side of the unsuspecting victim.
In most cases, the scammer convinces the victim with a long mail of how his/her father or mother left a considerable sum of money for him/her to claim (money is the bait to hook greedy fellows), before dying.
The scammer asks for the help of his victim in getting access to his ‘inheritance’ stored away in his parents’ account. The scammer promises to give the victim 20-25% of the inherited money (in most cases, about 2-10 million dollars).
At this point, the scammer extorts his victim gradually for ‘transaction fees’ claim fees, etc. the victim, in most cases, realizes their folly after they have been sucked dry by the scammer.
How to detect and protect yourself from Nigerian scam
- Watch out for grammatical inconsistencies
- Watch out for the ‘inheritance’ part and the part asking you for the payment transfer. Those are the red flag you should watch out for.
- Delete such messages telling you how his father or mother left him a large sum locked away in Nigeria or other West African countries.
- Never get in touch with the sender
5. The Credit card scam/Bank loan scam
People fall easily for this scam because banks and other financial institutions offer credit card facilities. However, a real credit card loan will not ask for an upfront payment from you.
When next you get a credit card offer in your mail, watch out for the part asking for upfront payment before accessing such facilities.
In some cases, these messages may be designed to trick you to parting away with confidential financial details.
How to detect and prevent credit card scam
- Too large a credit facility might be a conman job
- If you’re asked for an upfront payment of processing fee, it is a scam
- Monitor your financial transactions closely and protect your info
- Talk with your financial services provider in person if you need a credit facility.
The list of online scam is inexhaustive, but here are some key steps to protect yourself from online scams:
- Do background research about whom or what you’re dealing with. Talk with people around you, use Google also to find out more information
- Do not click on links in your email or text, and do not download file attachments without confirming their authenticity.
- Do not respond to suspicious phone calls demanding for remote access to your computer
- Protect your details, login details and passwords, phones, and computers.
- When shopping online, shop from popular online shopping platforms.
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