what are common internet scams, and how can I avoid them?



Nowadays, it’s all too common to receive email scams and fake money offers. So, how do you distinguish the legitimate offers from the frauds?

Email invoice scams are very common in the internet age and people who fall for these scams are mostly those unfamiliar with bank practices for asking for personal and bank details. Often an email will appear from an email address that looks like it’s from your personal bank sending you invoices to sign. When opened these emails often contain malware that installs itself and can log your banking information and details and send that information off to the fraudsters who send you the invoice. An even more basic scam is simply asking you to reply with certain details. This, at least as far as I know with NatWest, is never how banks will contact you to ask for banking details. They will never ask for a full PIN or password even when doing online or telephone banking so would never ask for such information in an email. The simplest and easiest way to avoid this kind of bank fraud is to simply phone up your banking service and confirm whether they have sent you the invoice or other fake-looking banking emails.

Tech support scams are also very popular and somewhat more subtle than a spam email, coming in popup form warming you that Microsoft has detected a security error and that you should call a given number to fix it! The way tech support scams work are quite clever actually. Most often, the “tech engineer” will use TeamViewer to gain access to your pc and show you Windows Event Viewer which displays a log of folders some of which are marked with “warning” and “error”. This is entirely normal but to the unsuspecting pc user this can trick them into believing that they do indeed have a virus or worm on their computer and need help. The objective of the scammer is to get you to download or even buy software that purports to aid your computer when it only infects it and causes damage. I urge anyone with procrastination time on their hands to look up Jim Browning on YouTube who makes interesting and amusing videos where he cleverly confronts tech support scammers and watching their reaction when they realised they’ve been rumbled. Simply do not trust popups from unverified websites or companies that tell you that you have a virus/worm on your pc.

Data entry jobs are legitimate and plenty, giving you money for updating computer system databases, often from paper documents. However there are some scams that ride on the back of this job and entice you in with the chance to make thousands of pounds. Chances are it’s a working from home scam that often asks you to spend a lot of money on purchasing software only produced by the company that is offering you the once in a lifetime job. Once you purchase the software, you wait for the checks to clear so you can start your new job but the data entry job never materialises. Vague payment structures and passive income opportunities are all signs of dodgy scams/companies and should be avoided. These scams are always aimed at the vulnerable and the poor who are more in need and desperate to make money.

My last example is somewhat less serious than the others and borders on the ridiculous. If you’ll believe it in 2011 Peter Popoff, an American televangelist began spamming random addresses with a letter concerning “Supernatural debt cancellation”! Popoff has woken up one day to hear the Lord say to him “The world is drowning in debt… and it’s time for you as my prophet to usher in the miracle of debt cancellation!” All Popoff needs is £25 and God will break the yoke of your debt bondage. Incidentally one of his letters comes with a rubber with an image of a £100 note on one side to really hone the image of your debt being erased. However many people have fallen foul to the promise of help from above and sent thousands of pounds to Popoff’s religious organisation and got nothing in return, some even sending the money they would otherwise spend on bills and car repairs. The mere fact that god, the omniscient creator of the universe needs £25 is utterly laughable, maybe he can’t meet his mobile bill!

In sum, while we laugh about the stupidity of scams and how obvious they are, they are a real danger to the vulnerable who are in dire need of money and are lured in by passive, get rich quick schemes, or who do not properly understand technology and are frightened into thinking their computer is virus riddled. Don’t fall for easy traps, avoid dodgy correspondences and double check what you’re doing before sending any money to an unverified source, even if that source is the Almighty.


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