There are more than a billion people worldwide who are now logging on to browse the web. People use the internet for all kinds of things; to stay in touch with family on the other side of the world, to do their Christmas shopping, not to mention those who work in the online industry.
Perhaps unsurprisingly there are those who will use the internet to the disadvantage of others. There are a number of scams and viruses that are used to try and lure you into parting with your hard earned cash and your personal information.
By being aware of the most common scams and having quality antivirus software installed on your computer, you will hopefully be able to avoid being caught up in one of them. We have put together a list of the ten most common scams to help you be aware of what to avoid while you’re online.
This is a very common scam in which you are sent an email from a professional looking company such as a bank asking you to confirm your details and will give you a link to do so. If you click on the link you will be asked to enter personal information, from which the scammer can access your bank account or put you at risk of identity fraud.
Never click on a links you think may be suspicious. Remember to always contact your bank or the organisation that appears to have sent the email in order to confirm if they actually sent it. Your bank should never ask you to divulge your information via email.
A friend in need?
Scammers can hack into people’s personal accounts, including emails and social networking sites. A common scam is to log into an account and send emails to friends saying that they are abroad and have been mugged or lost their wallet and are in desperate need of some cash for the flight home etc. The email will often also say that the phone lines are out of services and so you cannot call them.
Never send money if you receive an email like this. You are not helping a friend and you will lose your money.
The Trojan horse virus is very common and you will likely have heard of it before. The virus is spread via email and will encourage you to click on a link to a ‘special offer’ or open an attachment.
Trojan horse viruses record your keystrokes, giving the scammer access to all your passwords, including your bank logon details.
Never open attachments or follow links in emails when you do not know who they are from. Keep your antivirus software up to date so that if you do accidentally download a Trojan Horse you will be able to catch it, hopefully before the Trojan horse has a chance to record any of your details.
The Nigerian/419 Scam
This scam involves receiving an email from a so-called businessman in Nigeria or African country. The businessman will say that he wants to move a large amount of money into your bank account, to get it out of the country. In order to compensate you for doing this, you will be able to keep a large percentage of that cash – as long as you cover the initial fees.
If you receive an email like this, delete it. You should never give out your bank details, especially to strangers. You will not make any money from agreeing to do this and you are more likely to end up losing all the money in your account.
The Lottery Scam
You receive an email telling you that you have won a large amount of money. Great news, apart from you haven’t entered in their lottery/competition/survey etc. When you call to claim your winnings however, you will be advised that you need to pay an administration fee first.
Predictably, you will lose your money and never see your supposed win.
Economy Related Scams
With the credit crunch still affecting the economy, this is likely to be a scam that is well spread.
If you’re struggling with debt, you may receive an email from a debt company claiming to be able to buy your debts from you and minimise your monthly repayments.
Be aware that it is impossible for any company to buy a debt, without the lenders permission. You may think that your debt has been bought, but you will still owe money to your original lender as well as paying out to the fake debt company. If you fail to keep up repayments with your lender this could put you in a worsened situation and affect your credit rating as you default on payments.
Fake websites selling fake items
Many websites will be set up to look as though they are based in the UK. However, it is possible to buy a co.uk domain for very little and so the sites may be based outside the UK.
You may end up buying not only fake, but sometimes unsafe goods such as electrical items that have not been properly tested.
Don’t judge your decision on buying an item on the domain name alone, you may think that it is a UK site but this doesn’t mean that it is and therefore you may not be buying goods that are up to a safe standard.
The Online Dating Scam
The internet is a fickle place. It’s very easy for scammers to set up an attractive profile on a dating site and then try to lure you into parting with your personal details.
A common variation of this scam is to pretend that they are from the UK but working abroad, or that they live abroad. After forging a friendship with a user, the scammer will say that they really want to come to the UK to meet you, but they can’t afford the flight, hotel costs etc. Or perhaps he/she has been mugged or beaten up and cannot afford the medical costs.
Either way, you will be asked to help and to give your bank details. Never give these out to a stranger, even if you feel that you may have forged a relationship with them just remember that you have never met them and if this sounds familiar then it is likely to be a scam.
Natural Disaster Relief Fund
In the wake of a natural disaster it is likely that charities will ask for people to help and donate. However, be wary of receiving an email which will send you a link to a site where you can donate.
Charities are unlikely to ask for your bank details in an email. You can verify whether a charity site is real by visiting http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/ which has a list of all registered charities.
Auction Site fraud
If you are looking to buy something online, you might consider using an auction or marketplace site such as eBay or Amazon.
Scammers will often auction an item on one of these sites and make it look as they reside in the UK. However, the scammer will then contact the winner of the auction and say that they are currently out of the country and ask if is it possible to wire the money by MoneyGram, Western Union or bank transfer.
By using these services, it is usually very difficult to trace the money and so it will be unrecoverable in the case of a scam. You will end up losing your money for the item and you will never receive the item itself.