The internet is a great resource for finding deals and connecting with people from all over the world. However, it’s important to be careful and avoid online money scams. Per the Federal Trade Commission, consumers lost over $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021.
You don’t want to be the victim of someone’s malicious intent. So, we’ve got you covered.
In this article, we’ll detail some of the most common internet scams and how to avoid them. Check out the online safety tips below.
1. Be Suspicious of Unsolicited Emails and Calls
If you receive an unsolicited email or call from someone claiming to be from a company or organization that you do not recognize, be immediately suspicious. These communications may be attempts to scam you out of personal information or money.
To avoid getting taken advantage of in this situation, never give out any personal information, including your Social Security number, credit card number or bank account information— unless you are the one who initiated the contact.
2. Research the Organization Before You Engage
If you receive an unsolicited email or call from someone claiming to represent a legitimate organization, do some research on the internet or call the organization directly to verify the validity of the request.
Be sure to use contact information that you know to be valid, such as a phone number or website address that you find on the organization’s official website, rather than any contact information provided in the email or call.
3. Watch Out for Scams That Promise Easy Money
There is no such thing as easy money. Anyone who tells you that you can make a lot of money quickly and easily is likely trying to scam you. In fact, this is one of the biggest money scams that’s hurt a lot of people.
So, be wary of any offer that seems too good to be true—especially if the person making the offer wants you to pay them upfront for something. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
4. Don’t Click on Links or Open Attachments from Unknown Senders
Another helpful online safety tip is to recognize an online phishing scam. Phishing scams occur when someone tries to trick you into giving them your personal information by masquerading as a reputable organization. They do this by sending emails or text messages that look like they’re from a legitimate company. However, they often contain typos or other red flags.
If you receive an email or text message from an unknown sender that contains links or attachments, do not click on them. These could be attempts to install malware on your device or steal your personal information.
5. Beware of Impersonators
Scammers will often pose as representatives of a government agency, utility company or other organization in an attempt to get you to pay fake fees or fines. They may even threaten legal action if you don’t comply.
So, be sure that you know who you’re dealing with before you engage. If you’re unsure, hang up the phone and call the organization directly to verify the identity of the person you were speaking with.
6. Never Pay Upfront for Promises of Products or Services
Another one of the biggest online scams that crooks run is to offer products or services that they never deliver. They may even ask you to pay for these products or services upfront.
To avoid getting scammed in this way, never pay for anything until you have received the product or service and had a chance to verify that it is what was promised.
7. Don’t Respond to Threats or Intimidation
Scammers will often try to intimidate or threaten their victims into paying them money. They may claim that you owe them money or that you will face legal action if you don’t pay up.
However, you should never respond to threats or intimidation. Hang up the phone or delete the email and block the sender if possible.
8. Be Wary of Requests for Money
If someone you don’t know asks you for money, be very wary. This is often a sign of a scam. There are many variations of this type of scam. However, they all have one thing in common—the person asking for the money usually has some kind of sob story or emergency situation.
So, if you receive a request for money from someone you don’t know, do not respond. And if you feel compelled to help, do some research on the internet. It’s also smart to contact the organization directly to verify the validity of the request.
Fraudsters know that online scams work better when they pull on the heartstrings of victims.
9. Never Give Out Personal Information
Personal information includes your Social Security number, date of birth, bank account number, credit card number, or other sensitive information. You should never give this type of information to someone you don’t know.
Scammers will often ask for personal info, so they can commit identity theft or fraud. They may even pose as a representative of a legitimate organization in an attempt to get you to give them this information.
So, if you’re ever asked for personal information, do not provide it. And if you’re unsure about the person or organization asking for it, hang up the phone or delete the email. If possible, report the contact as spam.
10. Trust Your Gut
If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. So, if you get a bad feeling about a person or situation, trust your gut and walk away. This is the best way to avoid online scams.
Internet Scam Victim: The Aftermath
Getting caught up in money scams has huge consequences. Not only will you feel violated, but the situation could cause big problems for the victim. Here are some of the things that happen as a result of an online scam:
Loss of Money
This is the most common outcome of being scammed. The victim loses the money that they sent to the scammer. This could be a few hundred dollars or even a few thousand.
You can always reach out to your financial institution to let them know the situation. If a credit card number was used, they may be able to do a chargeback.
Another outcome of money scams is identity theft. The scammer could use your personal information to open new accounts, get loans, or make purchases in your name. This can ruin your credit score and make it hard for you to get approved for things in the future.
If you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you should reach out to the credit bureaus and file a report.
Loss of Time
In addition to money and identity theft, money scams also result in the loss of time. The victim spends hours or even days trying to resolve the issue. This is very frustrating, especially if you’re not able to get your money back
If you think you’ve been the victim of an internet scam, it’s important to reach out to the proper authorities. They can help you resolve the issue and get your life back on track.
A Sense of Distrust
The final consequence of money scams is a sense of distrust. The victim may become paranoid and not want to use the internet or their computer. They may also not want to give their personal information to anyone ever again.
While it’s understandable to feel this way, it’s important to remember that not everyone is out to get you. There are plenty of people and businesses that are trustworthy. Don’t let the actions of a few scammers ruin your view of the world.
Ways to Protect Yourself Online
Now that we’ve discussed ways that you can spot and avoid online money scams, we’ll break down some practical things that you can do to protect yourself. Here are some smart ways that you can shield your personal information and not become a victim of scams:
1. Keep Your Social Media Profiles Private
This one is seemingly a no-brainer. However, many people get victimized through social media. If you’re not careful, social media becomes a goldmine for scammers and cyber criminals looking for personal information.
So, it’s important to limit the amount of information you share on social profiles, and make sure that your privacy settings are set to the highest level. That way, only people who you’ve approved as friends or followers will be able to see your posts.
2. Use Strong Passwords
This is another important step that many people overlook. When creating passwords for online accounts, be sure to use a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using easily guessed passcodes like your birthday, or common phrases.
It’s also a good idea to use a different password for each of your online accounts. That way, if one account is hacked, your other accounts will remain safe.
3. Avoid Clicking on Links in Suspicious Emails
Phishing emails are a common way for scammers to gather personal information. These are emails that appear to be from a legitimate source, like your bank or a website you frequently use.
However, the email is actually from a scammer who’s trying to trick you into clicking on a link that will take you to a fake website.
To avoid falling for this type of scam, never click on links in emails unless you’re absolutely sure they’re legitimate. If you’re unsure, it’s best to type the website address into your browser directly, rather than clicking on the link.
5. Use a VPN
Another great way to protect your personal information online is to use a VPN, or Virtual Private Network. A VPN encrypts all of the data that’s sent from your device, making it impossible for anyone to intercept and read it. This is a great way to ensure your privacy, especially if you’re using public Wi-Fi.
5. Keep Your Software Up to Date
Another way to protect yourself online is to make sure that all of the software on your devices is up-to-date. This includes your operating system, as well as any apps you have installed.
Outdated software often has security flaws that can be exploited by hackers. By keeping everything up to date, you’ll make it much more difficult for someone to gain access to your personal information.
6 Be Careful When Using Public WiFi
Public Wi-Fi is convenient, but it’s also one of the most common ways for scammers to gain access to personal information. When using public Wi-Fi, avoid doing any sensitive activities like online banking or shopping.
If you need to do these things, be sure to use a VPN to encrypt your data. That way, even if someone is able to intercept it, they won’t be able to read it.
7. Watch Out for Suspicious Websites
As you’re browsing the web, be on the lookout for websites that look suspicious. These are usually sites that are loaded with pop-ups and ads, or that ask you for personal information before allowing you to access the content.
If a website looks suspicious, it’s best to avoid it altogether. There’s a good chance that it’s a scam, and you don’t want to risk having your personal information compromised.
- Check for HTTPS
When you’re on a website, take a look at the URL in the address bar. If it starts with “https://”, that means the site is using a secure connection.
This is important, because it means that any information you enter on the site will be encrypted, and it will be much more difficult for someone to intercept it.
Online Safety: Staying Careful and Avoiding Money Scams
By following these safety tips, you can help to protect yourself from becoming a victim of an internet scam. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
When in doubt, trust your gut. If you think you’ve been scammed, report it to the proper authorities right away.
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