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10 Online Scams & How to Avoid Them



10 online scams & how to avoid them
Internet fraud can take many forms: identity theft, injecting malware, fraudulent transactions. It can occur through email, smartphones, websites, and chat rooms. Here are some such scams and ways to avoid them
 

1. Infected sites

Infected sites
These are the sites that are not legitimate and have malicious software to hack your personal information.

A lot of such infected sites come up during festive season, when people are buying gifts online and hackers build these using popular search items. Another variation of infection is legitimate sites that get heavy traffic and, hence, are injected with ads and images that have viruses. 

A good way to avoid these is to go with familiar, popular sites or install ad blockers on your browser.

2. Fake phone apps


Fake phone apps
Be very careful about the apps that you download on your phone. Android and Apple smartphones are particularly vulnerable to fake apps in their stores, and these can introduce malware that steals the data from your phone.

To avoid fake apps, check the user reviews about the game or app before you download it. You can also go to the developer's website and get more information about the app before zeroing in on it.

Another safe option is to go for the most downloaded apps or those that come with the 'Editors' Choice' tag. Avoid the apps that are usually paid, but are being offered for free, or ask for too much information.

3. International dialling


International dialling
If your internet connection is through a modem using a local telephone number, beware. Some sites lure people into viewing content that requires them to download a dialler or viewer. If you do so, your computer will be disconnected from the internet and will instead be used to dial an international number, resulting in high phone bills.

To safeguard yourself, avoid sites that require you to download a programme to view content. You can also have your line blocked from making international calls. Also make sure your computer has anti-malware software to detect any illegal activity.

4. Phishing


Phishing
This is probably the oldest known scamming technique that is still going strong. Here emails, purportedly sent out from well-known institutions and social networking or payment sites, are used to draw out sensitive, personal information like passwords and credit card details. These mails could also carry links to infected sites.

A preventive step is to never give out personal information and call up the company to crosscheck that the email is genuine. Also scan the URL for security (use of HTTPS in the address bar means it is safe).

5. Pharming


Pharming
A combination of 'farming' and 'phishing', this term refers to the process by which a hacker gets a domain name for a site and then uses it to redirect this site's traffic to another, bogus website.

It can compromise serious information and cause heavy losses if the site being copied is that of a bank or taxation department. It can also be used to steal passwords, PIN or account numbers.

The best way to prevent this is to make sure you use secure web connections (HTTPS) to access privacy-sensitive sites.

6. Wi-Fi hacking


Wi-Fi hacking
If you use a public Wi-Fi connection, such as at airport terminals or coffee shops, to log into your account, you stand the risk of having your password and private information hacked. The hacker can also access your browsing history. This is especially true if you save the password to your account on your device.

If you are using a smartphone to access your account, try to use the 3G or 4G connection as it is more secure.

7. Auction/shopping scams


Auction/shopping scams
With online shopping and auction sites — wherein you put up household items and gadgets for bidding and sale — becoming popular, the scope of fraud has increased.

You could be scammed by not receiving the goods at all, getting poor quality items, or being charged more than the price mentioned. Your credit card information could also be used fraudulently. Besides, the seller could be defrauded if he doesn't get any payment.

To avoid it, make sure you know as much as possible about the item and seller/buyer. The latter shouldn't have just an email or a post office box address. Call him up and ask him about the address and extra charges. Also go through the feedback.

8. Investing scams


Investing scams
Here, the prices of stocks are manipulated by sending out false information about the companies through emails, chat forums or internet boards. This results in a rise or fall in the prices of stocks and the scammer benefits by selling or buying shares at the right time.

In another variation of investing scam, which came under the Sebi scanner recently, companies were offering 'guaranteed return' schemes through emails, websites, blogs and social media platforms, and conning people of their money.

The best way to avoid it is to conduct your own research about the company, and not invest in schemes that promise outrageous returns.

9. Employment fraud


Employment fraud
There are two variants of this scam. The more common one involves job offers by recruiters that require you to pay an advance fee or make a deposit, without the job ever materializing.

The second one typically offers you the job of a 'representative' of an overseas company and your task is to collect customers' deposits in your account and remit most of it to the company abroad. In doing so, you could not only be a victim of identity theft, but also have money stolen from your account.

Avoid any such offers without verifying the company and do not give out personal information.

10. Click scams


Click scams
Have you ever clicked on the game strips or dancing/jumping figures that pop up and move across your screen while you are on social networking or other sites? Don't.These could be fake and could lead you to click on concealed links, which either make your personal information public or provide access to confidential information stored on your computer.