To paraphrase an old Russian proverb: ‘’As long as there are sheep, there will be wolves.’’ Online scams are as old as the internet. They exist on the sole presumption that people will be taken by their emotions and do something without thinking.
While all scams have the same goal, they are not all equally dangerous. For the deceit to be successful it needs to pull on some of your heartstrings. While some scammers try to get to this point by casting a wide net, others are more specific.
If you don’t invest in cybersecurity you may leave some of your personal information for scammers to collect. The more info on you they have the more specific the scam can be.
If you are using a premium VPN provider and are cautious about your cyber hygiene, most of these scams will be blocked. And if you are using a foreign server, even those that can’t be blocked will often be in the language of the server country, and not your own.
What is an Online Scam?
An online scam is quite different than its IRL counterpart. Primarily, it is possible to cast wide nets and send scamming emails to thousands, if not millions of people. These scams are also done anonymously, making the perpetrator almost impossible to find.
The most dangerous online scams are those that are focused specifically on a single person. Here the scammer will have a lot of personal data about the victim and will customize their message or scam to fit the target.
Because of this dependency on data, scammers are usually working with data thieves and hackers to collect as much information as possible. Anything from your name, location, marital status, or even your favorite football team can be used to draw you in to click.
Phishing and Spear Phishing
Phishing is mostly a passive scam where fake accounts, websites, and email addresses are made to look like the ones you would trust. These attacks will look like real messages sent from some company, service, or person that asks you for your username and password.
Regular phishing relies on casting a wide net and hoping that someone will miss the cues that the website or email is fake. As internet users are becoming more aware of their existence, this wide-net phishing is becoming obsolete.
Spear phishing is more specific, targeting a certain person or a group. Additionally, spear phishing is often done in tandem with other scams. This is why it is always recommended to delete the email and don’t answer anything, as even the time you have answers can be used to produce your file and further the scam.
Online Scams vs. Hacking
While both hacking and scamming share some features and techniques, there are completely different problems. Hackers and malware attack your devices and your software. Scams and fraud attack you as a person.
If you have a good anti-virus system and use a VPN, you will be secure from almost any hack in existence. But, without cyber hygiene and personal awareness, there is nothing to save you from being scammed.
Finally, scamming people doesn’t require a lot of technical prowess and can be done by virtually anyone. Scams work by exploiting the moments when we don’t use our reason and work equally against everyone.
Level of Information
Both hacks and scams work better if the one doing them has more information on their target. But, unlike hacks where this information is only technical and often numerical, some scamming information can be deducted.
All targets are humans, and all humans are basically the same. All of us suffer from our reptilian brain pulling us to wrath, envy, greed, or lust. Even the most collected humans have moments when they don’t think and simply act on their deeper impulses.
Because of this, it is very important to prevent scammers from knowing which your main vice is. If they know your name, your age, and your location it can be easy to categorize you in a group. For instance, young men are prime targets for lust based scams and young women for those that focus on envy.
Mixed Hacker Approach
Some scams employ hacks inside them. Scamming emails and similar hooks can have links and downloads inside them that will infect your devices with malware and trojans. Because of this, it is important to keep your mobile devices and phones protected as well.
Premium VPN providers like Le VPN have good VPN hotspot apps that will protect you from WiFi hacks and inform you if the website you are visiting is dangerous. But, it is you who should check the sender’s email and the URL before clicking on any link.
Clicking on shady links is always a bad idea. If you are not 100% certain where it is leading, you should never click on any weird link.
Why am I not Protected?
No system, program, service, or authority can protect you from yourself. Anyone telling you that they will protect you from random scams on the internet is also attempting to scam you.
The only person that can protect you is yourself. If you practice cyber hygiene and invest time in developing your cybersecurity options, you will be able to shield yourself from all kinds of attacks.
Scams will still be attempted, but since no one would have your private information or even know where you are from these will always be easy to spot.
Seven Deadly Scams
Some internet scams are easy to spot and are mostly a cause for jokes rather than alarm. Others are much more sinister as they combine any information the scammer has on you with tried and tested ways to steal your accounts, private information, or just your money.
The way these scams work is to focus on a character flaw most if not all people have. Scammers know that those who desire money will browse the web for quick ways to earn some cash, and they will target that greed.
Most dangerous scams can be categorized by the deadly sin they incorporate. But unlike religious sins, these will always bring punishment in this life, and usually very quickly.
Gluttony – Fake Shopping Websites
Consumerism is what makes the world go round. In counties like the USA, the fact that everyone wants to have the newest and best things all the time has propelled the economy forward for more than a century. But, this tendency has its flaws.
Making wish lists and entering ‘’coupon hunts” by using your real name can often lead you to a mock website for some company or brand. As few brands have their shops, it might even use the name of the brand in the title.
The invite would be made to you specifically and present you with fake discounts and prizes if you buy the product in the next few hours. But, there is no product, nothing is coming in the mail. The website is made anonymously and the account paid to is now empty.
You will usually notice these scams because they don’t have alternative payment options like PayPal or Venmo. As these payment processors can hold money for review up to 15 days, you would notice the scam and request your money back before that.
Lust – Catfishing
It is hard being alone, and after some time of unsuccessful romantic exploits, some people become desperate and willing to accept anything. This is the base of tinder scams and similar deceptions.
Here, the scam artist would present as a beautiful person who is interested in dating you. They will even have images that were stolen from Instagram and belong to a foreign model unaware of the scam.
They will match with you and start a conversation. Some might be very direct and ask you to click on a shady link to ‘’chat with them privately”. Others might be more tactful and create a full tale about how they would love to see you in person, but that they are very poor or currently need funds for something and ask for help.
Some people have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars by falling in love with a catfish.
Greed – Lottery Scams & The Nigerian Prince
We’re all running for that bread as if we are mice. In all parts of the world, it has become very difficult to get a break when it comes to cash and scammers know this. They are targeting desperate people that would do anything just to pull themselves up.
Here is where the lottery scams come in. The scammer will send a message to someone how they have won a large amount of money and the only thing they need is to pay a small fee to claim it.
The best way to notice is that this is a scam is by the pure fact that they have contacted you. Lottery and games usually wait for you to contact them. If the email is mentioning the lottery you have played, simply find the phone number of that lottery and ask.
Don’t click on any links.
Pride – Job Offer Scams
This scam can cost you your information, your money, and your time. It is especially dangerous if you are someone who works remotely or a freelancer.
These scammers will set up a whole job-seeking website and collect private data that way. Additionally, as soon as you submit for some position they will contact you and tell you that you have been selected. The catch is that you must pay a small fee before your contract can begin.
Finally, this scam can even be elongated by the person on the other side asking you to do actual work. Once the ‘’trial period’’ is over the scammer will ghost you and simply cut all contacts.
They are counting on the fact that you will be too proud to deny the fee and say how you are not willing to work an hour for free and for someone that hasn’t shared any data with you. For any job, schedule a Skype interview and ask for the person on the other side to use the camera. No scammer will agree to this.
Envy – Fake News
Fake news has become a widespread phenomenon with an increasing amount of information being tainted by governments, corporations, or simply political partisanship. But, when we are talking about fake news scams we are not talking about CNN lying by omission.
These scams are as dangerous as regular shady links, but try to disguise themselves as news thumbnails. You will think that you got a news bulletin but will be clicking on a dangerous link.
In the beginning, this type of scam was focused on news about celebrities, but can now often be about politics, or even missing children and disasters.
Wrath – Fake Free VPN & Antivirus
YOU HAVE BEEN HACKED, CLICK THIS SHADY LINK TO UNHACK YOURSELF!
Because most people don’t know how hard is to hack someone, this scam works very often.
The scam works to frighten you about the integrity of your device and force you to click on a shady link. This link will always have some type of malware or spyware, and can even have full downloadable Trojans.
As these Trojans would be downloaded and installed with administrator privileges, there is no way your actual antivirus or OS protocols would protect against it.
The best way to fight these scams is to already have a premium VPN and a good anti-virus. For instance, if you are browsing by using Le VPN, the connection would be encrypted and the scammer wouldn’t know your real IP address.
Also, someone trying to employ a Trojan wouldn’t be able to connect to your device, but rather try to penetrate the VPN server, which is next to impossible.
Sloth – Work from Home Scam
Being a freelancer or someone working from home can be quite enticing. But, it is not all sunshine and rainbows. The hours are usually as long as the day, and there is little to job security.
But, people who are looking for a job are quick to click on ads about the amazing opportunities to earn vast amounts of money from home with little to no effort. As any person would tell you, an easy job that pays well doesn’t exist.
But, by clicking on this link the person on the other side will first try to collect your private information. They will also ask for your Facebook and other social media passwords. Finally, they may even demand a small ‘’entrance fee’’ for the processing.
In the end, you would be paying for your own identity theft.
Bonus: Vanity – Fake Travel Companies
This is a relatively new scam, but it has become more popular in recent times.
Namely, phishing websites are made to promote destinations and travel arrangements that are considerably cheaper than the usual price. You will think that you are buying a plane ticket and an All-Inclusive resort in the Maldives. But actually, you are just sending money to some guy in west Africa.
While these scams are very elaborate, they are also the worst when it comes to your time and money. Unlike shoes or tinder catfish, this can cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars and you wouldn’t even know it is a scam until you come to the airport.
Bad Business Practices
Apart from online scams, there are actions made by legitimate companies that should be considered unacceptable. From marketing to children to exploiting various visual tricks, some companies just don’t have the scruples needed to do good business.
This is why you should always read the fine print even with real companies that operate legally. There are more than a few fake ”free trials” that will charge you nothing right now but would deduct hundreds of dollars from your credit card in a week or two.
Also, some companies are more than willing to exploit children and their games for monetary gain. From microtransactions in games to loot boxes that are basically gambling, there are quite a few features that are aimed to pull as much money from the consumer without them realizing it.
How to Protect Yourself?
There are always three parts to having a safe experience on the internet: Cybersecurity, Cyber Hygiene, and Self-Awareness.
You should always have a VPN engaged and an updated anti-virus system. These are the cornerstones of your cybersecurity and would prevent most malicious software from attacking your devices.
Cyber hygiene is different, as it includes you not sharing any data with people or entities you don’t know. This means keeping your delicate business and personal data away from any potential hackers and ransomware.
Finally, being self-aware means knowing what are you doing online and what is true or false. This doesn’t require a full course of critical thinking, just a simple self-reflection. You should know that hot women don’t share their phone numbers with Twitter eggs and that nobody will ever give around thousands of dollars for no reason.
The existence of online scams should never be a reason for you not to experience everything the internet has to offer. But, some precautions should be advised and knowing of these scams in advance will lower their effectiveness.
Additionally, if you keep your data private, the scammers will have little to go on when trying to trick you. Using a premium VPN such as Le VPN will encrypt your communication and browsing. It will also mask your IP address.
If you have good cybersecurity and practice cyber hygiene, most online scams would become a silly distraction that you will notice from a mile away.
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