The computer revolution, like all revolutions, has brought as much bad as it has good, but it's here to stay. Therefore, as painful as it may be, it's necessary to wise up to the fact that many nefarious people are using the internet to con you. So here are 25 of the most common internet scams, designed to fool you into handing over your money or private details. Fortunately, simply being aware of these scams, and the modus operandi of these modern criminals, is enough to fortify and protect yourself from them.
1. The Nigerian con
This is a very common scam. You receive an email saying a rich Nigerian nobleman has died, or perhaps a foreigner with no heirs has died here, and all you need to do is help the emailer by letting them move the money to your account for safe keeping. For this you will be handsomely rewarded, they say. At some point the emailer will ask you for money, for bank fees or something like that. Don't reply to any email that promises you money.
2. The natural disaster scam
Some scammers take advantage of high profile disasters they have seen on the news. They will often set up a fake website, or email you with a request for a charitable donation to the cause, pulling on your heartstrings. Always check to see if the charity is real. Don't take their word for it.
3. The 'your friends were robbed' scam
Frequently people have received messages from friends' email addresses saying they have been robbed. The friend asks for money because they are all alone in a strange country with nothing. The email account has been hacked by malware, though. If you send any money it won't be going to your friend. Ask your friend to call you so you can hear their voice.
4. The 'please click on this greeting card' scam
During holiday season some scammers post fake greeting cards all over the internet, but not with a spirit of good will. If you click on the link it will tell you to update your media player. This update is actually a virus. Don't accept software updates from emails.
5. The Craigslist scam
A common scam used on popular website Craigslist involves a buyer offering you triple the price of the item you put up for sale. They send you a check and ask you to use it to cover the delivery costs on your end. Unfortunately after you send the item, the check bounces and you are left with nothing.
6. You have been pre-approved - Click here for your credit card!
The word pre-approved should send alarm bells ringing. But if not, you need to know that this scam will ask you to pay an annual fee upfront. Then you will never hear from the credit card company again.
7. An email ransom
So much information about many of us is available online, particularly through social media. Therefore someone with a cold heart can use this information to write you a ransom email, claiming your relative has been kidnapped, and you will only see them again if you pay up. This unfortunately does happen, but almost always, it is a barefaced lie. You should call your relative to make sure they are fine, to put your mind at ease.
8. Buy gold (and silver)
We are often told that gold and silver make the best investment. So, if a company you have never heard of contacts you saying this, beware. They will ask for a deposit by credit card and a wire transfer for the purchase. Often, elderly people are taken in by this wicked scam. Only make investments via reputable companies and talk to an accountant if possible.
9. Take our survey
A lot of surveys on the internet are genuine marketing tools. Some, however, are designed in order to steal your internet passwords, bank details, and internet history. Watch out for this. If you don't want to take a survey, try to close the window on your browser.
10. The scammer who loves you
Many men and women have been taken in by exotic strangers' professions of love, and poverty. If these adorable new friends start asking for money they probably are not for real. Always exercise caution when making friendships online.
11. The 'fake festival' scam
A lot of young people have been taken in by the promise of tickets to a unique festival. The tickets get paid for, but the event does not exist. Do some research before you attend a festival. Does anybody else know anything about it? How did it go last year?
12. Hacked Facebook accounts of people you trust
Just like emails, Facebook accounts can be hacked. So you may receive a message from someone you know requesting money or something like that. Always call the person on the telephone - not via the Facebook account - to verify the request.
13. Fake bank SMS message
This is known as smishing, when a fake text message will appear in your inbox, purporting to be from your bank, they may claim you are required to enter your details. If you do, some criminal has just got them. Do not respond to a message from a bank. Call the number on the back of your bank card and speak to them directly to see if there is a problem with your account.
14. You have won the lottery - in Portugal
If you ever get a message claiming you have won the lottery, even a lottery in a country you have never even been to, that then asks you to pay some money up front, you should know that this is also a scam, a very common one.
15. The phone number quiz
If you ever play a quiz online that asks for your phone number, don't give it. They could be using your phone number to charge your phone account quite a lot of money.
16. The 'starved orphan' scam
Perhaps you will notice an image of a poor child on the internet with a message. It may say that if you donate a small amount of money he'll eat today. Yet the money is not going to him at all, but some scammer. Always check that the charity you donate to is a registered one. Remember they may be giving a fake charity number, so do a proper search.
17. The classic classified scam
If you see something, a car, a house, with a ridiculously low price, something that stands out, then really question whether it is genuine. This type of scam is extremely common. The house itself, or car etc, may be for sale, but not with the person you are dealing with - they have just stolen the photo. If you never get to see it yourself, and they request an up-front deposit, don't pay a dime. It's a con.
18. The fake antivirus
This scam takes advantage of our awareness that viruses are everywhere online, and plays on your fears. It offers you a free scan and tells you you should purchase or download their antivirus program. It could be theft or simply a clever virus, either way, avoid it. If you are in the market for a good antivirus program, do some research.
19. A free diploma?
A few companies have promised official standard high school diplomas. All they ask is a fee and that you answer a multiple choice quiz. These exams are not real and they are simply designed to make money. If you want a high school diploma, contact an educational institution that you have heard of.
20. Travel based scams
Travel is big business on the internet, so you should expect a certain amount of fraud here too. If you see some too good to be true deals for top hotels or luxury flights then you may be on to something. Either they are totally fake, or are loaded with so many hidden costs that you will be paying more than you bargained for. Stick to trusted websites and travel agents.
21. IRS internet scam
This is a really audacious scam, but it has been working. You may receive a call said to be from the IRS, claiming you owe back taxes. If you don't pay up you will be arrested. They offer you a quick solution. Simply purchase a gift card at Amazon or iTunes and read the code to them, they ask. Of course they are not from the IRS, who will never call you before you call them.
22. Fake policeman fraud
Some scammers have taken to impersonating police. They will call claiming a relative of yours is in police custody. They will demand a bail payment from you to be placed on a pre-paid card, and ask that you provide the card's secret code. The police won't ask you for money like this. Hang up and call the police yourself to make sure.
23. Work from home set-up scam
This is all over the internet at the moment. You will see what seems to be testimony from someone on social media, or as a comment on an article. The person will claim it's easy to make money working from home. They will want you to pay a large fee and they will promise to provide you with all you need to start up your home business. It's just a con.
24. The hit and run scam
This shocking scam will claim that your child has committed a hit and run offense, but the victim and his friends have caught up with them and kidnapped them until they pay up for the damage caused. The 'kidnapper' will ask you to pay up, or else. This is a common scam perpetrated on Facebook and other similar places, so you should not believe it. Call your loved one to check all is well.
25. Phishing - the most common internet scam of them all
Phishing is a scam that pretends that your bank account or online shopping account has been compromised. They will ask you to confirm your details and to unfreeze your account on an official looking website, which is totally fake. Once you have given your password and account number they are happy, but you won't be. Be very careful with internet banking. If you have doubts, close the window and go to the bank's website directly. Check the information you have from the bank and take the URL from there.