Chances are, you or someone you know has fallen for an online scam at some point. They can be deceptive, and it’s getting harder to discern what is legitimate and what is fake. Online scams can be dangerous because hackers can gain access to personal and private information. The more you know about online scams and what they might look like, the less likely you are to fall for one.
One of the most common online scams is phishing. This type of scam is usually sent through an email or text message, and can take many different forms. The basis is that someone is trying to trick you into giving over private information. Sometimes messages will appear as though they are sent from someone you know, or from an organization that you trust. For example, you could get a text that looks like it’s from your bank asking you to respond with your banking information. It could also look like an email from a relative asking you to send money because they are in an emergency. The best way to protect yourself against phishing is to double check who the message is from, especially when you're being asked for private information or money. If the message seems slightly out of character, double check with the person or company first by calling a trusted number.
Shopping scams are another type of scam to watch out for. Some websites promise great deals only to never ship you the product you've paid for. Alternatively, they may steal your credit card information. This is especially prominent with lesser known websites that are offering expensive, luxury goods at very low prices. If it seems too good to be true, it likely is. To avoid falling for shopping scams, only shop online at companies and websites that you trust. Make sure to read customer reviews and check to make sure their payment systems are secure before putting in your credit card information.
Social media also allows for new types of scams to occur. In some cases of “digital kidnapping,” a hacker may take over one of your social media accounts and then threaten to post harmful content if you don’t pay them. If someone hacks your account, call or contact the platform and let them know you have been hacked. They can either try to remove the hacker from your account or delete it so that they no longer have access. To prevent your accounts from getting hacked in the first place, make sure you have strong passwords and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
Another scam to watch out for is malware or fake antivirus software. Sometimes if you download files from a non-reputable website, you can accidentally put malware on your computer that disrupts the function of your computer and collects information. To avoid this, don’t download any files from a site that doesn’t seem completely trustworthy. Sometimes, you may also get pop-ups telling you that your computer has a virus and contains a link to download anti-virus software. These are almost always scams, so do not click the link. If your computer is acting weird and you think you may actually have a virus, take it to a professional.
Online offers for free things are almost always a scam. You may receive a pop-up ad, a notification on social media, an email, or a text notifying you that you have won a free gift. It could be a free gift card, iPhone, plane ticket, or even a lottery check. However, in order to receive it you are required to put in personal information. These scams are designed to steal your information and not to provide you with a free gift. Again, if it seems too good to be true, it likely is.
There are many types of scams circling the internet, but knowing some of the common ones can help prevent you from falling into a trap. Be careful when giving out personal or private information online, and always make sure you are using websites and sources that you trust. It never hurts to double-check, and it can save you from putting money or information into the wrong hands.