Top 4 Most Common Scams On The Internet
The following guest post has been written Brett Christensen, also known as the Hoax-Slayer. He owns and operates a website dedicated to debunking email and Internet scams.
Online criminals use many methods to steal money and information from unsuspecting Internet users. Here are 4 of the most common:
Phishing scams trick victims into sending their personal and financial information to cybercriminals. They generally arrive as messages that pretend to be from a well-known entity such as a bank, company, or government department. In a typical phishing scenario, victims receive an “urgent” message that claims they must click a link and update their account information. The link opens a bogus website that closely resembles the entity’s genuine website. The fake site asks them to supply login credentials, credit card details and other personal information. All information supplied is sent to the scammers and used to hijack the user’s real account, steal funds, commit credit card fraud and possibly steal his or her identity.
Lottery and prize scams also trick victims into sending money and personal information to Internet criminals. Typically, victims receive a message that claims they have won a very large sum of money in an international lottery. Supposedly, their email address or name was randomly selected as a winning entry. To collect the “prize” victims are instructed to contact an “agent” to arrange delivery. But those who fall for the trick, and contact the agent will be asked to send money to cover expenses such as banking, taxation or legal fees. The scammers will insist that these expenses cannot be deducted from the prize itself. Of course, the prize does not exist and any money sent will be pocketed by the scammers. During the scam, victims may also be tricked into divulging sensitive personal information that may later be used to steal their identity.
Advance Fee “Nigerian” Scams
Advance fee scams, also commonly known as “Nigerian” scams, are a variant of the lottery scams discussed above. Victims receive a message that claims that they can share in a multi-million dollar fund deposited in an overseas bank if they are willing to help the sender get the money out of the country. Scammers use a large variety of cover stories in their scam messages, but here is a typical scenario: Victims receive an email promising a 50% share of a million dollar fund from a deceased estate if they are willing to stand in as the deceased’s next of kin. As with lottery scams, those who fall for the ruse and contact the sender will be asked to send money and personal information to allow transfer of the funds. Again, all money sent will be stolen by scammers and victims will never receive the promised funds, which never existed to begin with.
Money Laundering Job Scams
These scams fool job hunters into inadvertently “laundering” stolen funds. The scammers offering the bogus “job” claim to be from a company with an international customer base that needs an agent to handle customer payments. Victims are told to use their own bank account to process “customer payments” sent electronically or via cheques. They will be instructed to deduct a percentage of the funds as their “wage” and electronically wire the remainder back to their “employer” as cash. However, all monies victims receive are the proceeds of crime procured via hijacked bank accounts or bogus cheques. Thus, the criminals are able to turn stolen money into untraceable cash while police investigations lead directly to their victims.
The good news is that, with just a little foreknowledge, none of these scams are particularly hard to recognize. Once you learn how these scammers operate, it is easy to avoid becoming their next victim.
About the author:
Brett Christensen operates the hoax and scam debunking website Hoax-Slayer.com. He lives with his family in Queensland, Australia. He has been writing about scams, hoaxes and computer security issues since 2003.