Even the most skeptical of us can fall victim to an internet scam. These scammers are experts at what they do and we should be aware of the red flags.
The Phishing Scam
This scam works like this: You receive an email from a seemingly familiar enterprise such as your bank, university, or retailer you frequent. The message directs you to a different site via a link that you’ll be tempted to click. This is an attempt to ask you to verify personal information such as email addresses and passwords. Once you enter your information your security is breached. Phishing scams are some of the most common out there.
You should never click the links provided in suspicious emails. Although the sender may seem legitimate, no reputable institution will ask for your password or other key personal information online. Phishing emails will often contain typos or grammatical errors and the link will look suspicious, as if it’s not for the designated sender of the email. A recent type of phishing email scam lead into a tech support scam.
The Tech Support Scam
Tech support scammers want you to believe you have a serious problem with your computer, like a virus. They want you to pay for tech support services you don’t need, to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. Tech support scammers may even call and pretend to be a computer technician from a well-known company. They say they’ve found a problem with your computer. They often ask you to give them remote access to your computer and then pretend to run a diagnostic test.
Tech support scammers may also try to lure you with a pop-up window that appears on your computer screen. It might look like an error message from your operating system or antivirus software, and it might actually use logos from trusted companies or websites. The message in the window warns of a security issue on your computer and tells you to call a phone number to get help. Legitimate tech companies won’t contact you by phone, email, or text message to tell you there’s a problem with your computer. Beware and report these scams.
Government Imposter Scam
These scams involve receiving calls from Social Security, or the IRS, Medicare, or any number of other government agencies. Even if caller ID tells you, that’s not the government calling. Always remember as soon as the caller threatens you or demands that you pay them with a gift card or by wiring money that you’re not speaking to a government agency.
Government agencies will always initially contact you by official mail. They will not reach out via phone to inform you of a debt or a problem with your social security or Medicare. Never give these imposters information or money no matter how threatening or persistent they are.
This is perhaps one of the cruelest scams of all as it not only targets victims financially but also emotionally. Millions of people turn to online dating apps or social networking sites to meet someone. Sometimes even if you’re not looking for a love connection you can become a target simply by being friendly to the wrong person. Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and apps, or contact their targeted victims through popular social media sites like Instagram or Facebook. Instead of finding romance, many fall prey to a scammer trying to trick them into sending money.
It’s estimated that in 2018 alone over $230 million was lost by unsuspecting victims of romance scams. If you get a friend request from someone you don’t know, don’t accept it. If someone tries to romance you without being able to talk face to face don’t fall for it. These scammers are expert con artists and fabricate extensive stories such as being in the military, being a doctor in an international organization, or working on an oil rig. They use those reasons as excuses to not be able to meet. They quickly profess their love and will even propose to their victims without ever meeting.
Disaster Relief Scams
When disaster strikes, so do fraudsters. Hiding behind the guise of an actual aid organization, scammers will use a tragedy or natural disaster to con you out of your money. By thinking you’re donating to an emergency relief fund, you unwittingly provide credit card or other e-payment information.
After Hurricane Florence in 2018, scammers began targeting various parts of the country, trying to get victims to divulge their personal information in order to commit fraud or identity theft. The Attorney General of Virginia issued a notice warning residents to be vigilant, telling them disaster relief officials would never ask for financial or other information over the phone.
Only give to established, legitimate organizations. Visit Guidestar.org or Charity Navigator to verify the validity of the charitable organization in question. This type of scam can manipulate anyone with a generous, kind heart who just wants to help victims of disasters.
It’s best to remain skeptical and err on the side of caution. You can never be too careful when personal information is involved and there are always opportunistic scammers waiting to take advantage of anyone who lets their guard down. Be prepared and contact Internal Computer Services, inc. if you suspect that you’ve fallen victim to an internet scam.