Scams are getting more and more sophisticated, particularly when it comes to targeting you online. In this guide we take a look at how you can recognize a scam, protect yourself and what to do if you’re a victim or have been targeted.
- What is a scam?
- Types of scam
- How to recognize a scam
- How to protect yourself against scams
- What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed
- How to Avoid Online Scams
- Work at Home Jobs To Be Cautious About
What is a scam?
Scams can come in many forms, but all are designed to get your money by getting you to reveal your personal details, stealing your information, or even getting you to just hand over the cash.
The key is knowing how to recognize a scam, protect yourself and what to do if you you’ve been targeted or have fallen victim to a scam.
Types of scam
The tactics used by scammers and fraudsters can vary from someone coming to your front door to an unexpected phone call.
The internet and advances in digital communications have opened other ways for scammers to target you and steal information.
Chances are, you’ve come across the most common type of scams – the spam email from a Nigerian prince or reporting to be from HMRC or your bank.
However, while email scams can be quite easy to spot and avoid, others are much more sophisticated.
How to recognize a scam
Knowing what to be on the lookout for when it comes to scams is one of the best ways to protect yourself.
- Unsolicited or unexpected contact. If you have received any kind of contact, but particularly a phone call, out of the blue, it is best to avoid it. Since January 2019, there has been a ban on cold calling about pensions. This means you should not be contacted by any company about your pension unless you’ve asked them to.
- Emails That Look Not Quite Right. Sometimes you can find everything you need to know in an email. If you notice bad spelling and grammar, you might be dealing with an overseas phishing scam (a type of fraud where a user’s personal data, such as passwords and credit card info, is stolen through an electronic communication like email). It also helps to look closely at any links (when you hover your mouse over them before clicking). Do they go where you think they should go?
- Threats and Hyperbole: Scammers’ goal is to exploit your hopes and fears until you hand over your cash. To take advantage of your fears, they might tell you that you’ll go to jail, lose your job, or somehow face humiliation if you fail to make “required” payments (none of which they can accomplish legally). If something sounds all bad or all good, you’re not hearing the truth.
- Unsecured Sites: Look for the lock (or “https” in the address bar) when doing anything sensitive online. If you provide personal or financial information to an unsecure site, it can be stolen easily – in fact, it probably is being stolen because you’re already at an imposter site. Any reputable bank, credit union, or online shopping site will require a secure connection. If your connection is not secure, you might be caught in a so-called “man in the middle” attack, in which your usernames and passwords are collected for later use.
How to protect yourself against scams
- BE VIGILANT: Never take an online job advertisement, especially for “work-at-home” opportunities, at face value. If a job sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- DO THE RESEARCH: Thoroughly investigate companies that hire online by visiting their website, asking for and checking references, and seeing whether they have an authentic corporate presence on sites like LinkedIn or Glassdoor.
- MAINTAIN YOUR PRIVACY: Never provide private information like your social security number, credit / debit PINs, or bank account information to online “employers” who solicit this information until you have confirmed that they are legit.
What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed
As much as you try to avoid it, you might find yourself the victim of a scam. If this happens, report the scam with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). You might also report it with the FBI (IC3 Internet Crime Complaint Center), which takes reports on all kinds of scams. This will help other people to avoid becoming victims of the same scam. Here’s more information on reporting a job scam.
How to Avoid Online Scams
If you see any of the warning signs above – how can you do so safely? Get more information. Research the person or business in question until you’re 100 percent certain that you’re not getting ripped off. Remember scammers can be very convincing and are very patient – they’ll talk with you for hours (over many weeks or months) to make you feel comfortable.
Talk about the situation with a friend or relative, and look for similar stories online – you might be surprised at what you find. Check with your community if it seems like a local thing, but keep in mind that many internet money scams are tried-and-true hustles, sometimes conducted from far away (you can find good information with a general internet search).
- Check Out the Job Listings: If it isn’t listed in the job posting, find out if there’s a salary or if you’re paid on commission. For work-at-home jobs, ask how often are you paid and how you are paid. Ask what equipment (hardware /software) you need to provide.
- You Won’t Get Rich Quick (Really): Avoid listings that guarantee you wealth, financial success, or that will help you get rich fast. Stay clear of listings that offer you high income for part-time hours. They will do none of the above.
- Hang on to Your Money: Do not send money! Legitimate employers don’t charge to hire you or to get you started. Don’t send money for work at home directories or start-up kits.
- Check References: Ask for references if you’re not sure about the company’s legitimacy. Request a list of other employees or contractors to find out how this has worked for them. Then contact the references to ask how this is working out. If the company isn’t willing to provide references (names, email addresses, and phone numbers), do not consider the opportunity.
- Think Twice: If it sounds too good to be true, you can be sure it is! Also, read any “offers” you get very carefully. One candidate for employment got a very detailed job offer from an employer. The only problem was that she hadn’t applied for the job and buried deep within the lines was a request for her bank account information, so that the employer could pay her. It was a scam, of course, but with some of the well-written ones it can be hard to tell.
- CASH IS KING: If you’re selling something that you’ve advertised online, be wary of accepting anything but cash as payment. Scammers have various ways to cheat you out of money (when you’re supposed to be the one collecting money – funny how that happens). For example, they’ll try the classic cashier’s check scam or they’ll ask for your bank account information under the pretext of sending an electronic payment or wire transfer (then they’ll use that information to get into your bank account). If a buyer can’t show up in-person with cash, there’s probably a better buyer out there.
- Handling Payments for Someone Else: There’s no legitimate reason for you to handle payments for somebody else. If you’re asked to deposit money into your account and forward it to somebody else, you’re likely involved in a scam. When you’re looking for work and these “jobs” come up, it’s hard to pass up the opportunity, but moving on is your best bet. At best, you’re being set up for a scam; at worst, you’re involved with something illegal (such as money laundering).
Work at Home Jobs To Be Cautious About
- Assembly Jobs: No, you can’t make lots of money assembling craft kits or any other type of kits. You just waste money on a package to get you started.
- Data Entry Jobs: You’ll see lots of listings for data entry jobs. They are usually either position posting ads or a sales pitch for a kit that will get you started.
- Multi-Level Marketing: (MLM) which involves recruiting new people, then more new people, to sell the product. If all you are doing is trying to find more people to do what you’re doing, keep in mind that there are thousands of other people attempting to do the same thing. Most of them aren’t getting rich as MLM isn’t a job with a paycheck, it’s starting a business with no guarantees.
- Online Businesses: Do you want to start your own online business and make extra income? Be very careful with this one, do your homework, research, research and research there are a few legit ones out there but a lot of scams.
- Posting Ads: There are lots of ads saying workers are needed to post ads on online bulletin boards and forums. You don’t get paid to post, rather you may get paid if other people sign-up.
- Processing Claims: In order to get “hired” you’ll need to buy equipment, software, and pay for training.
- Stuffing Envelopes: There are still people saying that you can earn $3 or $4 per envelope to stuff them. You can’t. All major companies have postage machines which stuff, sort, and meter mail. Welcome to the age of automation my friend.