Online scammers are more sophisticated than ever before, utilizing clever schemes to take advantage of unsuspecting internet users.
Protecting yourself online is a crucial initiative, to avoid losing money, your personal information being violated and other forms of deception. Online scams are definitely on the rise, where new technology has created advanced cybercriminals capable of serious damage.
How can you stay one step ahead of the game and avoid being a victim of fraud? Here are some of the most common scams on the market and what you can do to safeguard against them:
Free Trial Offer!
If you ever encounter a ‘free one-month trial’ offer online, you should be skeptical and consider the implications of signing up. It’s crucial you’re fully aware of what you’re signing up for, where some offers are too good to be true.
There are many internet offers. For example, teeth whitening or weight-loss programs, which offer you a free month’s trial in exchange for a one-off fee. But what are you signing up to when you agree to the terms and conditions?
Well, somewhere buried in the small print you might have just committed to a costly monthly subscription, despite initially thinking you were getting a great offer. This is a scam executed by shrewd operators, who capitalize on the way people rarely read the small print before pressing ‘I agree’.
For those who glance at terms and conditions to observe the numbers listed, scammers disguise figures as letters, failing to use dollar signs to be incognito. You might see something written as ‘One hundred dollars plus five dollars shipping and handling payable every month once the trial ends’. Once you’ve signed up you’ll be faced with a bit of a predicament.
To avoid facing a circumstance like this you should make sure you examine the small print before getting suckered in. Don’t believe every testimonial either. In fact, you should browse the web for identical photos to those used in the testimonials you’re dubious about.
Preventative measures are always best. However, some companies will give you an opportunity to cancel if you are roped in. Otherwise you can cancel your credit card and negotiate a refund or simply appeal to your credit card company.
The Hot Spot Imposter
Logging into a local Wi-Fi zone requires due diligence prior to making a simple connection. Why? For your own protection. There are many imposters posing as a ‘free network’ that have evil intentions.
Usually, you’ll connect and everything seems fine, only to learn the ‘free connection’ has been set up by a criminal looking to steal your information. Imagine connecting to a hotspot only to have your credit card details and passwords hacked!
Because spotting fake Wi-Fi hotspots can be difficult at the best of times, You should only connect to Wi-Fi connections you can validate are real. Cybercriminals can duplicate legitimate web pages to make Wi-Fi spots seem real when they’ve actually tweaked the web page of a reputable provider to retrieve your information.
To avoid being scammed, make sure your device isn’t set up to connect to networks automatically. You can configure this from your Wi-Fi settings. If you need to connect to Wi-Fi at airports, use a gift card to avoid handing over credit card information. You should also avoid internet banking or shopping from public networks while looking out for red flags that something isn’t right.
The Suspicious Tweet
When you receive a tweet from a follower which includes a link to a ‘must enter’ contest, be careful how you respond. If a link is posted that doesn’t seem valid, it probably isn’t.
You’ll probably get a ‘click on the link to learn more’ prompt, which should be ignored. These contests are often the pretext to take your information and use your account to send spam information on to new victims.
This works via downloading a ‘bot’ to your computer, which can intrude accordingly. Sophisticated scammers will use URL shortening services to reduce the length of links so they seem credible. This makes it more difficult to spot malicious links.
The main way to prevent being exploited by these links is to only click on links from followers you know and trust. You can also check the account the link has been sent from. If that person has lots of followers there’s more chance it’s legitimate.
Most reliable links will offer previews before you click them, which you can also use to determine legitimacy. If you click a link and it asks you to enter your username and password for a site, it’s probably a phishing scam.
Be cautious and avoid clicking any links that appear even slightly questionable.