First 30 Days Blog

12 mar

How to Avoid 3 Common Online Scams

RobertCordrayBeing a con artist used to be more difficult. At the very least, it used to require a bit more courage and ability than it does now. Unfortunately, the invention of the internet has expanded the base of potential suckers almost infinitely in every direction. So now, rather than carefully selecting a mark, acting out some elaborate setup, and finally closing the deal, the con artist can just cast his net out into cyberspace and wait for the payoff. The bad news is that internet scams are all over the place. The good news is that we’ve got a list of three of the more common ones that you should be aware of.

1. The Nigerian 419

No list of internet scams could be complete without the Nigerian 419. This one is the father of all the other scams on the list, and has been around since the early days of the internet. In essence, the scam involves receiving a message from someone who is attempting to move a large sum of money out of a politically unstable region. The scammer promises you that if you help them, they’ll let you have a substantial percentage of that money. All you need to do is send a few thousand dollars to help move the money through the various channels, and once it all clears, you’ll get a nice, fat, multimillion dollar check. Of course, in reality, that check will never come. If you’re foolish enough to send them the money, either the scammer will simply disappear into cyberspace, or he will follow up with the news that unexpected problems have arisen, and that more money is needed.

There are thousands of variations on this scheme, and some may appear to be very genuine. So here’s a good rule of thumb: if it seems too good to be true, assume that it is. Never send money—or even a response—to any message that you get requesting help in this manner. These people will see any reply as an encouraging sign, and some scammers have been known to resort to violence and abduction to get what they want. Just delete the email and move on.

2. Phishing

Maybe you’re too savvy to fall for the Nigerian scheme. So you delete that message from your inbox, and move on to the next. It’s an email from your bank, and it says that you need to update your account. So you click on a link, are taken to the website, and you enter your personal information. Well, congratulations, you just got phished. Phishing scams use fraudulent websites—that often look almost identical to the real thing—so that you will give them the data that they’ll need to steal your identity and empty out your bank accounts. Whenever a company asks you for personal information via email, warning sirens should go off in your head. If you seriously think that your bank has important business with you, play it safe and go speak with a banker. Never give personal info to someone who emails you asking for it.

3. Auction scam

This may come as a surprise, but sometimes con artists can be found working through otherwise legitimate and reputable websites. Take those who practice the online auction scam, for example. 60% of all internet scams reported to the FBI involve sellers in online auctions. The scheme itself is very simple and straight forward. A product is placed up for auction, an unsuspecting buyer purchases said product, and then the product never arrives. The buyer then attempts to get in touch with the seller, only to find that their contact information is bogus.

The real problem with auction scams is that they can be difficult to identify; after all, the auction site itself is legitimate, and they do have security measure in place to weed out potential con artists. However, no security system is perfect. If you do want to purchase something from an online auction, do some research into the seller. Does he have positive reviews? Has he been selling things online for more than just a few months? If anything seems out of the ordinary, like a new seller with no reviews, then maybe you should move on. At the very least, make sure that you never provide personal information to someone from whom you are making an online purchase. Use online sites like PayPal to make your purchase. At least in that case, even if they rip you off, all they’re getting is a onetime payment.

About the Author: Robert Cordray is a freelance writer for and expert in business who specializes in small business leadership. With over 20 years of business experience, Robert is now retired and hopes others can benefit from his writing.

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Posted by Robert Cordray on March 12th, 2013 in Technology | 0 comments

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