Just when you think we have talked about all the possible internet scams, Lam Law Firm is back with Part 2 of our foray into the dark parts of the web. The best way to protect yourself from internet scams is by staying informed of the different types and how to recognize them when they happen.
Below we review some of the latest internet scams going around and provide helpful tips for both dealing with internet scams and how to avoid them.
Digital Hacking, What Is It?
Also known as kidnapping, this scam is when hackers gain access to your social media accounts. They will contact you to demand payment or “ransom” for these accounts to be returned to you, the owner. They may even try and push you to pay by threatening to post harmful material. Do not pay these scammers. Instead, you should contact the platforms and let them know that you have been a victim of fraud.
Virus-Riddled Software Downloads
This is an older version of an internet scam that still happens. When you download files onto your hard drive, you are opening your computer to the possibility of viruses or malicious software, sometimes called malware. This software can penetrate your files, collect vital personal information, or simply destroy your computer.
The other type of malicious software you can find yourself downloading is ransomware. This is like digital hacking, but instead of losing access to your social media accounts, you lose access to your computer, which is then held for ransom by scammers. Again, you should not give in to their demands.
If you have been the victim of malware or ransomware, take your computer to a specialist that can restore your computer.
Note: if someone sends you a notice that your computer is already infected, do NOT download anything from them to “get rid” of the virus. This is the most common way scammers get the software on your computer in the first place.
Fake Emails from Stores & Financial Institutions
Have you ever gotten an email from a store saying there is a problem with your account? Or have you gotten an email saying you won a gift card? All you need to do is sign in, right? WRONG! Scammers use these tactics to get your personal information, including your credit card or banking accounts. Once you have clicked their link and entered your username and password on the fake site, they now have your information for the real site. This type of scam can happen with retail and eCommerce stores, financial sites like PayPal, or even your banking institution.
Before you click that link, hover over it and ensure it is taking you to a verified site. That link that says it is going to CHAINSTORE.COM may be going to FAKECHAINSTORE.COM. Also, check the sender’s email address. Often it will say the email came from “Chain Store Customer Support,” which seems legitimate. But when you view the full email address, it’ll say something like email@example.com. Recognizing a fraudulent email is key to avoiding a fake email scam.
If you are unsure about an email link’s validity, do not click.Instead, you can visit the company’s official website through your web browser using a verified, legitimate web address and not the one in the email link.
Fake Charities/Ministries Scams
This scam really preys on those who just want to make a difference in the world. You’ll get an email asking you to donate to help a cause. These can range from save-the-children fundraisers to political races. There are even personal charities like GoFundMe, where individuals can raise money for things such as medical bills or funeral costs. But not all of these are legit.
It is always a good idea to do your research. You have the whole of the internet at your fingertips, and it has a wealth of information. Make sure the company you donate to is not only real but also reputable. If this is a personal fundraiser, make sure the person that started it is who they say they are and that the money is actually going where they say it is.
By doing your homework first, you can make sure your donation really makes a difference.
Sometimes you will get an email saying that you are pre-approved for a credit card or line of credit. These offers will tempt you with high credit/loan limits or unbelievably low interest rates. These can be very hard to resist. But as always, there is a trick involved.
These scams will require you to pay all costs and fees upfront. Usually, the scammer claims these are necessary processing or annual fees. This is a scam. Credit cards will never ask for fees upfront before approval or opening an account and giving you the card. Do not fall for this!
If you are in the market for a new credit card or personal loan, do your research and only work with legitimate banking or financial institutions that can be vetted. Look up customer reviews, and if possible, visit a brick-and-mortar location and speak with one of their official representatives. For online-only institutions, look for legitimate online reviews, and work with well-known institutions that you can verify.
Tips for Avoiding Internet Scams
When in doubt, it is always good to remember the adage, “If it is too good to be true, it probably is.” Protecting yourself and your personal information in today’s modern world can be challenging. With so much of our day-to-day life moving online, we are all vulnerable to internet scams. However, with a little vigilance, you can keep yourself and your personal info safe.
Tips for avoiding internet scams:
- Make sure that you are visiting reputable sites
- Don’t click links that you do not recognize
- Use anti-virus software
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi, especially if you are entering sensitive information
- Call the company’s corporate office if you cannot find information online about whether an offer is legit
Need help getting rid of debt related to an online scam? Call our office at (843)839-9995, or send us a message online, to set up your free initial bankruptcy consultation today!