Avoiding Online Scams


Internet fraudsters are always looking to take advantage of increased web traffic and online spending, like we have seen since this pandemic started. However, there are some simple things you can do to avoid falling prey to these high-tech con artists.

Go Phish

Busy people get emails all the time. You tend to lose track of which ones are legitimate and which ones are simply posers. Even emails that seem to come from a familiar person or business can house a scam link.

If you’re ever in doubt, mouse over the link without clicking. If the hyperlink doesn’t match the sender, it’s likely a scam.

Phishing emails are among the most prevalent scams out there, and they come in every shape and form. Fortunately, excellent resources exist to help spot a phishing scam.

Playing on Emotion

Remember the Nigerian Prince scam? While that one is easy to spot, new tactics are much savvier and subtle. Scammers tend to prey on moments of weakness, fear and uncertainty, which they easily create with made-up high-stakes scenarios meant to play on intense emotions. The message often calls for immediate action, forcing you to make a dangerous snap decision.

Some of these include the Relative Imposter Scam. These messages target vulnerable seniors, posing as a family member in need of urgent financial assistance. It can be done by phone or email, and it is insidious because it plays on recipients’ compassion. Beware of anything that calls for swift action or ‘emergency’ emails from your bank. Emotional manipulation can also appear as a fraudulent charity soliciting donations.

Too Good to Be True

Buyers everywhere are always on the hunt for the best bargains, which means that online grifters are also looking to rake in the rewards. You’ve probably heard about someone or something ‘too good to be true?’ Well, the same applies to internet shopping schemes.

We frequently see this in the form of insanely discounted prices for hot items online, especially for the kinds of things that have no business being that cheap. They manifest as fake vouchers, fake links, fake ads or even counterfeit websites. Check and double-check to be sure you know what you’re buying into.

Pyramid Schemes

Pyramid schemes are still a thing! In fact, they’re back with a vengeance. One scheme getting major traction recently is the Secret Sister gift exchange. This particular scam has been around for years, but it keeps resurfacing to bamboozle more aspiring “secret sisters.”

The scam involves buying a gift and shipping it to an anonymous “sister,” which means sharing your private information with someone you’ve never met. Be on the lookout for anything that involves giving out your personal information, such as your email, home address or birthday.  And be especially aware of online altruists – they’re rarely what they seem.

The single connecting factor is that they’re after your money, personal data or both. Be smart and protect yourself this year; if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.