Internet scams have been around for as long as the internet itself, and sadly, millions have been taken in by them. While some scams cause little more damage than a minor loss of credibility – we all have that relative who forwarded us so many “beware” emails that we no longer believe anything they send- others were far more devastating. Some scams work so well that they exist in countless variations, with minor details changed every now and then to keep them fresh. These are 5 of the most common, prevalent, and popular internet scams of all time.
- The Nigerian Scam- Numerous variations of this scam exist, but they all have similar elements. A stranger somehow manages to get your email address and sends you a plea for help. Said stranger is usually a woman in a dire situation (playing the archetypical role of damsel in distress). She needs a good person like you to help her out, and in return, she’ll give you a boatload of money. All she needs is every last detail about you and your financial accounts. Give up that info, and you’ll find your accounts drained faster than you can say “Nigeria.”
- The Fake Banking Site- In this scam, you typically receive an email claiming to be from your bank, credit card, or Paypal. The email informs you that your account has been compromised in some way, and they need to you log in to verify some information. Once you log in, they have your account information and can access it at any time, wiping it clean before you realize what happened.
- Lottery scam. Quick, check your junk mail! You may have won billions of dollars in some foreign lottery that you don’t even remember entering. Amazingly, simply owning an email address has automatically entered you, and now, to claim your millions or billions, all you have to do is pay the processing fee of a few thousand dollars. Hey, you’ve just won millions, what’s a few grand? Of course, once you send the money, it’s gone forever and you’ll never see a dime of your imaginary winnings.
- Fake antivirus warnings. These scams can wreck both your finances and your computer system. Typically, they work by inserting malware code onto a site. You surf to the site and a warning pops up, telling you that your computer is infected and you need to download a specific program to get rid of the virus. Of course, you’ll need to pay up! If you do pay, you’re out money, plus the thieves will have your credit card info on record. The program won’t clean up the problem, either. Instead, it will likely make it much worse.
- eBay scams.eBay is the world’s most popular third-party seller site, and the system is designed to leave sellers very vulnerable. One of the most popular scams is ordering an expensive yet widely available item, like a camera. The thief typically has a broken version of the same item, and when yours arrives, they claim it was broken in transit. They demand their money back, and since Paypal favors the buyer, they get it. You get a broken item (if they bother to send anything back to you) and no money.
There are countless other online scams to watch out for. Avoiding them comes down to simply using common sense and staying away from anything that looks fishy.
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