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How to Identify Internet Fraud

These days, it’s pretty common to hear about Internet and electronic frauds. With the ever growing importance of the Internet and online shopping, your chances of falling prey to scammers increases daily. But this doesn’t have to happen to you

In this guide you’ll find details on the different types of scams that exist and the most common signs of fraud. It outlines a number of strategies that you can implement to avoid becoming one more victim. By staying alert and taking the necessary precautions, you can protect your personal and financial information.

The most common Internet frauds

Internet fraud has grown right alongside e-commerce. In fact, it’s very likely that you’ve heard about it in the news or even know someone who's been scammed. Here’s the secret: Information is the first step to avoid becoming a victim of this type of criminal activity

The following are the most popular types of Internet fraud to look out for:

Phishing

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), phishing is a type of fraud where scammers send an email or text message pretending to be a reputable company. Many times, these messages look like they’re coming from your bank, online stores, or social media platforms.

The objective of the scammers is to make you believe that the message you received is legitimate. If they manage to fool you, you’re more likely to enter personal information such as passwords or debit card numbers.

Some of these messages include:

  • Fake receipts.
  • Payment requests with a dangerous link.
  • Notifications that one of your accounts is about to expire.
  • Requests from strangers begging for your help to solve an urgent problem.
  • Google documents that seem to come from one of your contacts.
  • Notices about tax returns that seem to come from the IRS.
  • Warnings about suspicious activity in one of your accounts.

Usually, phishing messages include an attachment or a link. These could install a virus in your computer to obtain your information or ask you to enter your personal information.

Vishing

Vishing is short for voice phishing. It’s a practice that tricks victims via voice messages. Just like phishing, these messages also pretend to be from reputable companies. But the real intention behind them is to get your personal information or your bank details.

Scammers cannot install a virus on your phone or get access to your information by leaving a voicemail or calling your number. However, they could accomplish their goal if you call them back. By getting you on the phone, it’s possible for them to trick you into giving them your information.

Online shopping fraud

Our shopping patterns have changed in recent years. More and more people shop online and, sometimes, this can lend itself to fraud.

On their Consumer Information page, the FTC points out that online shopping scams tend to start on fraudulent websites or fake apps that offer products at huge discounts. These stores could be completely made up. Other times, they use logos that look similar to those of well-known stores.

Fraud takes place when you buy products and never receive them in the mail. You could also receive fake merchandise that’s not the brand or quality you were expecting. 

After the initial purchase, these fraudulent websites could also send you coupons via email. It’s possible that these offers include a virus or fake links to try to steal your identity.

Fake pages

Aside from fake stores, there are also fake websites that try to steal your personal information. Some of the most common websites they pretend to be include:

  • Tech support companies. 
  • Employment offers.
  • Rental property ads.
  • Lottery prizes.
  • Cryptocurrency trading.
  • Immigration offices.
  • Health services related to COVID-19.

Social media scams

We also tend to see a number of people fall prey to scams on social media. Some of the methods that scammers use to contact their potential victims include:

  • Illegitimate accounts that pretend to offer customer service for well-known brands.
  • Fake comments on popular posts with catchy headlines.
  • Live videos that take you to fraudulent websites.
  • Tempting discounts or offers where you have to enter your information.
  • Polls or contests that want to get access to your personal details.
  • Private social media messages from imposters pretending to be one of your friends.

Other types of scams

Sadly, many scammers use the popularity of the Internet and new technologies for their own benefit. It’s important to be careful because these bad actors come up with new types of fraud every day. The US Government put together a list of the most popular scams that exist today, including:

  • Romance scams on dating apps.
  • Fake kidnapping.
  • Sale of illegal medication online.
  • Charity fraud.

Warning signs of online fraud

Being aware of the different types of online fraud isn’t always enough for you to protect yourself. It’s also important for you to be able to identify the warning signs of fraud. This can help you recognize and prevent fraudulent activity that isn’t represented in the list above.

They ask for your personal information

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, one of the first things that a scammer will ask for is your personal information. In order to acquire these details, they often pretend to be a government agency or financial institution. At times, they may also use social media profiles or your contacts’ email accounts to establish contact with you.

The private information that scammers look for the most include:

  • Your full name.
  • The names of your family members.
  • Your home address.
  • Your date of birth.
  • Your social security number.
  • Your bank account numbers.
  • Your credit or debit card numbers.

They ask you to make a payment

If you receive a call or other type of communication requesting a suspicious payment, this could be a sign of fraud. An example of this could be if you’re up to date with your credit card payments and receive a call asking you to make a phone payment.

The FTC also identifies the following phrases as warning signs of a possible fraud:

  • “You’ve been randomly selected for this exclusive offer.”
  • “We’ll send you a free gift when you buy this product.” 
  • “You’ve won a valuable prize. All you have to do is pay for shipping and taxes.”
  • “This is a low-risk investment that guarantees a high return.”

They make offers that are too good to be true

Aside from requesting payments, many Internet frauds include too-good-to-be-true offers that may seem irresistible to you. These are some examples from the U.S. Government website:

  • Work from home offers.
  • Job offers with the government or the postal service.
  • Pyramid schemes that require a significant upfront investment and extensive recruiting for you to make a profit.
  • Very low prices for high-ticket items.

They urge you to take immediate action

Scammers know that they only have one opportunity to make you fall for their scheme. This is why they tend to create a sense of urgency. The intention is to make you feel that you could miss out on a great opportunity or that this is a dire situation that needs immediate attention.

The North Carolina Department of Justice published a consumer alert warning to the public that scammers are posing as family members experiencing an emergency. Some of these fake emergencies include:

  • Asking for bail.
  • Urgent medical bills.
  • Plane tickets.

Other types of fraud that create a sense of urgency include limited time offers, prizes that must be immediately deposited to your bank account, or any other communication that urges you to act right away.

The Oregon Department of Justice also advises against transactions that must be kept a secret. If the person who reached out to you pressured you to take immediate action without discussing the situation with anyone else, this could be a sign of a possible fraud.

What to do to prevent Internet scams

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Statistically, most consumers will come across scam attempts at some point. But there’s a lot you can do to protect yourself! The following recommendations can help you stay safe online and avoid falling prey to costly scams.

Visit trustworthy websites

The American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) recommends avoiding websites that seem suspicious. Pages that are outdated, have spelling or grammatical errors, or URLs that seem unusual could compromise your personal information.

According to this organization, the best thing is to shop directly from websites that you know and trust. If you use search engines to buy products or services online, avoid buying from merchants that you don’t know. Instead, choose the search results that direct you to reputable websites.

If you must use an unknown service, do your research

Aside from using reputable websites for your online shopping, AARP also suggests doing the following research:

  • Compare prices and read reviews from other shoppers before making purchases.
  • Do a Google search that includes the name of the service, brand, or website along with the words “scam,” “fraud,” and “complaint” to confirm the legitimacy of your purchase.
  • Review the store’s policy, in case you want to return or exchange your products. 

Protect your email address

he Texas Attorney General recommends protecting your email address in order to avoid online fraud . Here are some of the steps you can take to keep your email account secure:

  • Use an email filter.
  • Mark unwanted messages as spam.
  • Limit the companies and individuals who have your email address.
  • Avoid sharing your personal computer with others.
  • Be careful when downloading attachments and only open files that come from people or offices that you know and trust.

When in doubt, ask the authorities

When unexpected events like COVID-19 or natural disasters occur, scammers take advantage of people’s fear and the lack of information.

If you suspect fraud but aren’t sure, it’s always best to reach out to the authorities. The FTC is available to take your calls or answer your requests via email. You can also contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to file a complaint.

In case of possible labor fraud, contact the U.S. Department of Labor. If you suspect medical fraud, you can call the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And, if you have reason to believe there’s been an immigration fraud, you may call your local embassy or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Choose credit card payments over bank wires

Whether you’re making an online purchase or any other type of Internet payment, the FTC advises you to avoid wire transfers. Once you’ve processed a wire, it cannot be cancelled and there’s no way for you to recover your money.

By using a credit card, the authorities can track the person who received the funds and identify possible scammers. An excellent option to keep your money safe while shopping online is using our PODERcard.

With PODERcard, your safety is our priority. Our service meets extensive banking security measures to protect your personal and financial information.

Although Internet fraud is more and more common every day, there’s a lot you can do to protect yourself. By identifying the signs and knowing your rights as a consumer, you can avoid scams and keep your personal information safe.