The most common Internet scams you can’t help but spot, and a few that are not quite so subtle. How to avoid Internet scams and how to spot a scam online.
How To Avoid Internet Scams
Scams. The Internet is rife with them. It is infected with the disease of greed, infested with black-hat marketing vermin. What’s surprising is that many of the scams are old, simple and easy to spot. What’s scary is that many of today’s scammers operate as if they were legitimate businesses. Located in countries with little to no oversight, operating in the gray areas of the digital netherworld using top level security techniques that keep them anonymous, invisible and out of reach of regulators and law enforcement, these people have offices, secretaries, keep business hours, draw paychecks and even take vacations. How to avoid Internet frauds? This is usually easy as many are quite obvious and, once you begin to understand the differences between a real website and a fake one, becomes second nature.
Top 7 Most Common Internet Scams
1. Binary Options
The number one fraud on the Internet today is binary options. Binary options are a simplified method of trading financial markets with limited risk and a predetermined outcome. The binary options themselves are not scams. They are in fact an easier way to trade, and are used as a speculative instrument around the world. There are many jurisdictions including the US CFTC, the UK FCA, the EU/Cyprus CySEC, Australia’s FSA and more who allow, regulate and oversee exchange style binary options trading. The scam is that there are more unregulated brokers, signal services, autotraders, tipsters and gurus than all the regulated brokers in the world combined, and all they want to do is convince you to deposit some money so they can have it. And their targets come willingly to the slaughter dumping tens of millions of dollars into it annually since 2011.
Binary options offer a variety of features attractive to people who want to spend money. First, there are the get-rich-quick seekers who are always looking for an easy way out. These people are often desperate to make some cash or just don’t have the ethic required to do the work it takes to make money the hard way. They will be searching the Internet and find ads claiming fast profits, 80% in under a minute, trading the world’s most liquid markets. Don’t worry they’ll say, trading binary options is easy and if you need help – we’ve got an account manager, autotrader, or signal service who will help you lose your money just slow enough to keep you entertained, drain your account and leave you begging for more.
After that come the frustrated traders from other disciplines. They’ve already lost money trading standard options or forex but still think they can be winners. After all, somebody won all the money they lost, they should be able to win it back with binary. It’s easy, the risk/reward is much simpler than leveraged spot forex, the broker will give you a sign up bonus to increase your stake (bonuses have turnover requirements that make it likely you’ll lose your wad before you meet them) and you can even use the same techniques as forex. And if you can’t make it work, the broker is sure to have a signal / autotrader that can help. If you haven’t started trading yet, don’t worry, they can help you learn.
The absolute worst though is the “other” category of victims. These are usually folks who’ve signed up for something somewhere not knowing their name was put on a list that was sold on the Dark Web to financial scammers. These people may operate as individuals or from a call center (refer back to my mention of scammers working 9-5 jobs) and use “high pressure marketing tactics”. Their callers are gregarious, outgoing and convincing with a counter to every argument, a means of motivation for every balk. Their targets are literally orphans, grandmas, widow(er)s, single parents and college students who may have legitimate financial needs an investment could cure. They will likely not know they are investing in binary options, or that their deposit is tied up by bonus terms, or that the broker is a complete fraud located on some tropical island paradise with no banking laws.
Avoiding this scam is very easy. First, if you know that what you are looking at is binary options or binary options related and you are not a trader looking at a broker/exchange located in your jurisdiction you should just move on to something else and forget all about it. It may not be a scam, but it probably is. Second, if you are being pressured by phone, email or any means of communication for an investment – be sure to check for licenses, regulations and recommendations, and check with your local regulator, to make sure what you are being asked to do is legit. It probably isn’t, there are lots of laws in just about every country preventing the kinds of abuses committed by fraudulent binary options brokers and marketers.
2. Clone Websites
Clone Websites are the number two on our list of most common Internet scams 2017. Clone websites are websites with URLs, business names and appearances that will make you think you are looking at a company you are not. I first learned about this when researching binary options but it can be applied to any form of financial company, investment or business that would accept money from the public on a regular basis. They set up shops to do just what the name implies, copying the existing business. Instead of accepting your deposit for investment and then applying it to mutual funds, comodities or stocks the company would take the money and then use some form of misdirection to keep clients occupied until an escape could be made. Imagine this, you go looking for something you want to buy/invest in online and find a great website offering just what you want. Add to this the ease with which it is possible to transfer money across the web and the potential for fraud becomes easily apparent. The best way to avoid these scams is to do due diligence with any website you wish to do business with. If you are not sure of their authenticity then don’t use them, I am sure you can find whatever you need on Amazon, but make sure that the website which looks like Amazon belongs to Amazon indeed.
3. Fake News
Fake news is a big scam going on around the world. It is used to sway public opinion and misdirect attention. The problem has become so virulent that school kids now question the veracity of information taught to them in schools. This problem first came to light, or to mass awareness, during the US elections of 2016. The fallout from those fake news story is still being felt to this day as it has cast a shadow of doubt on the media as well as players within the government, on both sides of the equation.
4. Phishing Email Scams / The Nigerian Scam
Phishing email scams are among the oldest on the Internet, emails are after all the first Internet application widely used by businesses and the public. While many are easily spotted and sent straight to your junk mail some still get through and need to be manually filtered. The most recognizable is the Nigerian Scam.
Hello, I am a prince/government official from Nigeria and need your help. I am trying to flee persecution and need help transferring money out of my country. If you help me I can promise you bags of money and all you have to do is send me a few thousand to get the bank wires set up. If this is acceptable please transfer blah blah blah and then you lose your money.
If you aren’t able to tell from the sender or subject line then a quick peek inside usually does the trick, marketing language or pleas for digital mercy are hard to camouflage. The best way to avoid this is to unsubscribe from whatever list it is they have you on and refrain from opening any further correspondence.
5. Greeting Card Scams
Greeting card scams, referred by a friend and other scams delivering malware through the email system are old, common and still around. In the old days malware would install advertising pop-ups or annoying and hard to remove toolbars. Nowadays those pesky little viruses are able to do much more damage and could even infiltrate and compromise your home or office network. Like with phishing scams the best way to avoid them is to not open them unless you are absolutely sure who sent it and where it is coming from. If you feel you must open it, use a virtual computer/virtual machine to do it. A virtual machine is an OS set up on top of another operating system, usually accessed across the web, and is a sterile/safe environment in which to open potential malware threats. Using anti-malware and anti-virus is also very important.
6. Lottery Scams
Lottery scams are another age old trick of scammers and one perpetrated across the Internet using the email protocol. The lottery scam works by playing on inherent greed and dreams of instant wealth. Who hasn’t dreamed of winning the lottery and these people make it easy by telling you don’t worry if you don’t remember buying a ticket you were entered when you did this blah blah blah on Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest or some other social media site. All you have to do to claims your prize is verify your personal financial information and send them a small fee. Then they can drain your accounts of all you have and disappear into the ether. Avoiding this scam is pretty easy, if you aren’t holding a lottery ticket in your hand and/or don’t remember entering a contest, you are probably not a winner.
7. Fake Anti-Virus Scams
This is another oldie but goodie. You will be surfing the net and all of a sudden a pop-up appears telling you that your computer is infected. The good news is you can download this anti-virus right now to clean it up for no problem. What they don’t tell you is that the pop-up you’ve just seen is in fact a virus and a scam to boot. Downloaded software may remove “malicious” threats but it may also mine your computer and devices for all the data it can find, and then send it back to the home base. What makes them easy to fall prey to is the fact they work very hard to make themselves look like a message screen from Norton, McAffee or other trusted service. The very worst of this type will be the dreaded ransom-ware and will lock down your computer unless you purchase their “service”.
How To Spot A Scam Online
Scams come in many forms and today’s scammers are quite crafty. Some scams are very elaborate and may even include additional websites set up to confirm and validate the original scam. This is common in financial fraud where a fake regulator or oversight agency is set up to verify the legitimacy of a broker or manger.
1. Look for their information.
A legitimate business will provide you with copious amounts of information about themselves. You will want to see addresses, phone numbers, email accounts and more. Once you find it you will need to verify it. There are hundreds of virtual offices around the world, businesses can set up an account with them for mail and as the registered offices of corporations and other legal business entities. Scammers love to use these for many reasons including implied regulation/legality by association with the parent country.
2. Is what they are offering too good to be true?
Like they say, if it seems too good to be true it likely is. Scammers and fraudulent websites like to offer things they can’t possibly guarantee such as profits, win rates, money back if you lose/it doesn’t work and anything else it will take to gain trust. Legal businesses don’t usually offer that kind of thing, especially financial related businesses.
3. Do they claim to be regulated, registered or recommended?
Be sure and check these out too and more than just a quick visit to the websites. All too often, especially if the scam is financially successful for the scammer, supporting websites will be constructed to help provide the veracity of the first. A regulator may say the service is legally operational and trustworthy, a reviewer may say the site is top notch and delivers on all it says but if they aren’t real they aren’t worth the time it took to read them.
4. Are they asking you for money?
Unless you are talking to a charity there is no reason why any legitimate business, contest or job offer is going to require you to give them money first. If you are being asked or pressured to send or deposit money it is a red flag that should not be overlooked. If you haven’t already verified who it is you are in contact with, you need to do so.
How To Avoid The Most Common Internet Hacks
The best ways to avoid the common scams, frauds, hacks and malware attacks found on the Internet is to use the black hat’s own tricks against them. One of the top tools used by them was in turn taken from Big Business and the Government, tools they themselves use today to secure Internet connections and protect data: Virtual Private Network. The virtual private network or VPN is a means of ensuring the integrity of Internet connections and the safety of data transmitted across them. In the past they were only used by those same big businesses due to the complex nature of setting them up. Learn more about the security advantages using a VPN.
Now commercially available for the public VPNs are fast becoming a standard for home and office security. How they work is simple. You, the user, download VPN software to your device be it Mac, PC, Android, iOS or other. The VPN service provider sets up and maintains a dedicated VPN network server. When you use the VPN to connect to the server it creates a digital tunnel through which your connection is made, the tunnel is virtually impossible to detect and if found, impossible to hack because it is encrypted.
The intended benefit of the VPN is security of connection, the unintended benefits include anonymity on the Internet. The combination makes it impossible for malware to find you unless you willingly, or unwittingly, stumble upon it. It also makes it impossible for black hats and malicious hackers to trace your connection, or access it for your information. The only thing a VPN can’t help protect you from is yourself. Learn more about the common Internet security mistakes and how to avoid them.
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