How to avoid becoming a victim of internet fraud
Online scams are everywhere and they’re becoming harder to spot. As our lives become increasingly digitized, so are the ways in which criminals attempt to scam us.
In this article we’ll cover some of the most common online scams, how they work and what you can do to avoid them.
In 2021, it is estimated that almost 60% of all cybercrimes were online scams and accounted for a staggering $55 billion in global financial losses. Experts from across the globe have reported huge rises in online scams since the global pandemic, where more people were forced to carry out business and personal activities online. This resulted in less experienced internet users from around the world, particularly those in developing countries, finding themselves the victim of fraud.
Often these scams catch the wave of culture to gain quick virality online. One such case was a fake token, inspired by the 2021 hit Netflix show, Squid Game, which conned people out of $3million dollars in a matter of days.
Online scams are big business, and often the product of highly skilled criminal gangs. There are other scams to beware of too, like the romance scams that can be used to humiliate or extract personal information from people. Let’s take a look at the most common online scams examples and internet fraud tactics.
Common types of internet fraud
Online dating scams – what you need to know
Online romance scams cost victims $547 million in losses in 2021 alone. Perpetrators of these twisted and personal scams use a variety of tactics to ensnare genuine people into their traps.
These romance scams often start on platforms like Instagram or TikTok, or through shared connections on forums. Once a rapport is established, the online fraudster will gain the victims trust by acting like a confidante, finding common ground, and being a listening ear day and night.
As the relationship progresses, the fraudster will find excuse after excuse not to meet in person, or reveal their true identity. They may often create an elaborate story for their life and why you can’t be in control of contacting them or seeing them. They could say they are overseas, work odd hours or are even in a controlled environment like the military.
Once they feel they have established a deep enough connection, the requests for money start.
Typically the online dating scammer will invent an urgent scenario that requires a cash transfer to resolve. This could be to pay an aggressive debt-collector, fix their car or buy tickets to finally meet up. If they can, they will do this several times to extract as much money as possible.
How can you avoid online dating scams or romance scams?
Be honest with yourself. If someone is constantly avoiding meeting up with you, but claims to be in a relationship, is that really true? If they ask for money, but aren’t willing to meet with your face to face it’s almost always a scam.
Is the person you’re talking to reluctant to share photographs with you, reveal more of their identity or video call? These are all red flags. Try using any images you have and searching on Google image for matches. Online dating scammers will often take images from other people’s social media accounts without their knowledge to hide their own identity.
If your online beau claims to be in the military or another job that ensures they’re uncontactable for weeks, even months at a time, do your research. Don’t take this on face value, don’t believe what you see until you’ve met a person in real life.
Lastly, never ever give out identifiable information, personal details or send cash to someone you haven’t met or know in person.
Talk to your friends and family, people who know and care about you, and trust their instincts if they feel you’re being scammed.
Online shopping scams – what you need to know
Online shopping is more popular than ever. It’s estimated that $5.7 trillion worth of sales happened online in 2022. And, as this mode of buying continues as the norm, online scammers who try to con people out of their hard earned money proliferate.
Online shopping scams typically take the form of bogus websites designed to look like real e-commerce platforms. The scammers will also sometimes use social media to run fake adverts to lure people in to enter their card details and steal their cash and personal information.
The rise of social media means that products and trends appear overnight and our consumer culture means we can access them at the click of a button. Scammers are highly sophisticated and agile to trends and knowing what people want to buy. They will throw up quick websites that can look incredibly realistic to sell viral products that don’t actually exist.
Another way these online shopping fraudsters hook in their victims is by advertising their scam sites on legitimate websites and platforms, making it look like a trust site has endorsed them.
How can you avoid these online shopping scams?
Don’t fall for ‘too good to be true’ deals or prices. If the site is offering designer goods at super cheap prices, or claiming that their products can perform miracles. Take a step back and really consider if this is a genuine deal. If they’re selling a brand, check out that business’s social media and website to see what the prices are and you can even call them up to check if they are affiliated with the site you’ve found. The answer is likely to be ‘no’.
The site doesn’t look ‘right’. Online shopping scam sites are often thrown together quickly and will lack key details like terms and conditions and privacy policies. Spelling and grammar mistakes as well as low-resolution imagery and poor quality graphics are also often a give away that you’re dealing with a fraudulent site. You can also use third party sites like TrustPilot to check the reviews of a particular business and whether it’s legitimate or not.
Look out for strange payment methods. If the site only accepts wire transfers or they ask you to purchase coupons or tickets before you can access the ‘real’ site or payment methods, just shut it down.
Online job scams
Since covid, employers are taking advantage of the use of Zoom or other video call apps to interview or pre-screen potential candidates for jobs. This is a great way to see if someone is right for a role without having to bring them into the office or travel to meet them. While this is convenient for people who have genuine hiring intentions, unfortunately, fraudsters have found a way to use this as a mechanic to scam people.
The online scammer will start by uploading a fake job opportunity to websites like Craigslist, ZipRecruiter or Indeed. They will often make the post as desirable as possible with great salary offers, flexible hours and more perks. They will then hold an interview call to learn more about the applicant, eventually offering them a job. Once that happens they then request ID documentation and other personal details, including bank information, under the guise of setting their victim up as an employee on a probationary period. They will give the ‘employee’ work to do, and eventually build up to asking them to use their own accounts for financial transfers for clients. They do this as part of elaborate scam rings to move and hide fraudulent funds.
How can you avoid this sort of online job scam?
Legitimate companies will never ask you to move money through your personal accounts.
Check the emails they’re sending you. Does the email address correlate to a genuine business email account? Professional companies don’t typically use gmail, hotmail or other personal account providers.
Be wary of job opportunities where the terms or salary seem too good to be true or way above the going rate.
They don’t ask to meet in person before the hire, this is also a red flag you should pay attention to.
Sometimes scammers pretend to be legitimate and known businesses. If you’re suspicious, or something doesn’t feel quite right, be wary. Always double check with the business itself through a separate channel if they are hiring or that the person you’re dealing with is who they say they are.
Online casino scams – what you need to know
Online gambling or casino scams are on the rise as internet fraudsters set up fake game portals to con people out of their money.
They do this by creating an online casino that is much like the real deal, and even lure in potential players with offers like big bonuses and sign-up treats. These things are common in online gambling so it’s hard to spot what’s real or fake.
Once you sign up, the fraudulent online casino scam can take your cash in a variety of ways. Typically, on these sites you add a deposit to your account that gets you into the game and fraudsters then steal these funds. Once you’re in and playing, often the games are rigged and with multiple fake players and genuine users don’t have any chance of winning. And, if you do play and win, you typically find the whole thing is a scam when you don’t receive any winnings at all.
How can you avoid online casino scams?
One big giveaway with these fraudulent online casinos is a lack of proper customer support. If you can’t find someone to talk to, or you’re not receiving replies, it’s likely that it’s a fraudulent site.
Double check the site with the licensing provider in your region. Online gambling is a strictly controlled industry and casinos must register to be able to trade. Visit casino.org to find out who gives out licenses where you are.
Remember, gambling is for adults only, so block any such key words or sites from your children’s devices if you feel they are being lured into online casinos through a love of video gaming or similar. Sometimes there’s a fine line between gaming and gambling. Kidslox has a number of features that can help.
What should I do if I have been a victim of internet fraud? Reporting online scams.
If you’ve fallen into an online scam trap, or are suspicious about something you’ve seen on the internet, it’s important to report it.
Reporting online fraud gives the relevant authorities the ability to understand the latest scams and scamming behaviors to keep others safe.
In the USA, the government has an Online Safety hub where you can report scams and learn what to do if you have lost money or had personal details stolen.
If you have had money stolen, contact your financial institution and let them know what’s happened to see if there are ways in which you can be refunded. Often they will need you to have reported the incident to the police and other relevant authorities, but your bank can guide you.
How can I protect my family, especially my kids, from scams online?
Children and teenagers are vulnerable to online fraudsters and scammers for a number of reasons. Firstly, scammers often use trends or hot products as a way to lure in their victims. If your teen has their heart set on a particular item that’s all the rage, their desire to get it at any cost can cloud their judgment. Younger people lacking life experience can be naive in their assessment of people’s character, and assume that they are there to help, or genuinely want to be friends, leaving them open to being exploited for cash or personal information.
The way scammers operate from platform to platform can also differ. For example, if your teen spends a lot of time gaming, they might fall for bogus prizes or gambling scams. Likewise, if your teen loves watching influencers or is glued to their TikTok, a scam like a celebrity impersonation scam might be something to watch out for. Here are our top tips to prevent your family from becoming victims of internet fraud.
- Know your audience
Understand where it is that your teen spends most of their time online and familiarize yourself with the latest scams on that platform. You can see more of our guides on scams for popular apps, WhatsApp, Instagram and the teen-fave, TikTok, here.
- Fraudsters almost always want cash
Never give out details, and always be wary of urgent requests for money. Asking for money is the ultimate online scam warning sign.
- Double check everything
Attempted internet fraud can often be prevented with a little due diligence and additional checks. One particularly nasty type of fraud is the family kidnap or WhatsApp scam. In this instance, a scammer will message a parent from a new number and pretend that their teen is in danger. This is often followed by requests for money for more information. Never panic in these situations. Always use another mode of communication to contact your child on a separate line to ensure they’re safe. And, it goes without saying that these bogus online fraud attempts should always be reported to the police.
- Take control
Parental controls give parents added peace of mind when it comes to monitoring their child and their smart devices. Children and teenagers are vulnerable to fraud, and parental controls aren’t about limiting freedoms or spying, they’re designed to keep kids safe.
Kidslox acts like a secret weapon for parents who are concerned about who their children are talking to online by giving them access to features that can block harmful sites, increase privacy and give guardians a view as to what their children are looking at.
- Education and e-literacy
The best way to prevent internet fraud becoming a problem for your family is to keep up to date on the latest scams across all the popular platforms so you know what to look out for. It’s also key to teach children about the appropriate way to behave online to protect themselves and those around them. This includes recognising fake sites, accounts and potential fraudsters, never giving out personal or identifiable information and being super clear on who it is you’re talking to.
Young people should always have private accounts and have the amount of time they spend in front of a screen monitored by their parents. Tech, smartphones and digital devices aren’t going anywhere, which means neither are the scammers. By staying educated and up-to-date as a family, you’re reducing your risk of becoming the latest victim of the increasingly sophisticated online scammers.