It’s easy to forget that behind every online scam is a real person plotting and planning new ways to steal from you. And steal BIG! Ruthless people who use all their cunning to seem plausible, so that you innocently hand over your money or personal information to them.
Online fraud is now one of the most prevalent crimes worldwide. In the UK alone there are 30 different types of online fraud and 62% of people have been targeted by scammers. But exact figures are hard to gauge as many victims are just too upset and embarrassed to come forward.
WorldRemit takes online security very seriously and understands many of the tricks and technology behind the most popular scams. That’s why we’ve written this article to help ensure you’re never taken in.
It’s well worth a read.
We look at ways to recognise an online scam, explore the different types of online scams; and advise you how to avoid and protect yourself.
How can you spot a scam?
Here’s how we’ve learnt to spot a scam. Beware if:
- Something seems too good to be true – for example, if out of the blue you’re told you’ve won a round the world trip
- A stranger contacts you unexpectedly via email or social media
- A company that contacts you doesn’t seem legitimate i.e. has no postal address
- You’re asked to transfer money quickly
- You’re asked to pay in an unusual way – for example, by vouchers or wire transfer
- You’re asked to give away personal information like passwords or PINs
- You’re asked to click on a link in a text message to ‘update’ or ‘verify’ account details
Remember - your bank and other reputable financial institutions will never:
- Phone you to ask for your PIN number or your online banking password, even by tapping them into the telephone keypad
- Ask you to update your personal details by following a link in a text message
- Ask you to transfer money to a new account for fraud reasons
What are the types of online scams?
Here are just a few of the most typical online scams. Look out for them and do all you can to protect yourself from them.
1. Email scams
You’re offered a share in a large sum of money in return for helping to transfer it out of the country. Once you have given the scammers your bank account details, they empty your accounts.
An email from your "bank" designed to trick you into revealing your personal information and passwords. As we said above your bank will NEVER contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, full password or to move money to another account.
Pharming is another email scam, this time directing you to a website which mimics a legitimate website in order to access your personal details.
Investment scams and pension scams
Watch out for emailed offers of worthless, overpriced or non-existent shares, or a time-limited opportunity to convert some or all of your pension pot into cash.
WorldRemit tips on how to avoid emails scams
- Don’t click on links or open attachments in an unsolicited email.
- Check the sender’s email address matches the website address of the organisation it says it’s from. Roll your mouse pointer over the sender’s name to see its true address.
- Be wary if the email doesn’t use your name and says something like "Dear customer".
- Avoid emails with a sense of urgency, asking you to act immediately.
- Beware of emails with poor grammar and spelling mistakes.
- Never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited. This includes banking and credit card information, your birth date, and Social Security/Social Insurance numbers.
2. Online dating scams
Dating and romance scams usually happen through online dating websites, but scammers may also use social media or email to make contact.
They’ll win you over by expressing strong emotions for you in a relatively short period of time and may suggest you move the relationship away from the website to a more private channel, such as phone, email or instant messaging.
Once they’ve gained your trust and your defences are down, they’ll ask you for money and gifts, even your banking/credit card details. They may pretend to need the money for some sort of personal emergency. Don’t be fooled.
WorldRemit tips on how to avoid online dating scams
Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person. Consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam, particularly if:
- You meet someone online and after just a few contacts they claim to have strong feelings for you and ask to chat with you privately.
- Their profile on the internet dating website or their Facebook page is not consistent with what they tell you.
- After gaining your trust (often waiting weeks, months or even years) they tell you an elaborate story and ask for money, gifts or your bank account/credit card details.
3. Online shopping scams
More and more of us are shopping online these days, as it’s just so fast and convenient. But wherever people are exchanging money and details, you’re sure to find online scammers.
For your online safety, be cautious about the sites you visit. There are thousands of websites out there that provide false information and might redirect you to malicious links, giving hackers access to your most valuable data.
If you spot a great online offer which is "too good to be true", it probably is. Do all you can to protect yourself and don’t be tempted to say "yes" instantly.
WorldRemit tips on how to avoid online shopping scams
- Make sure that the website has 'https' in the URL (the extra 's' is for 'secure') and a small lock icon on the address bar. Even then, the site could be unreliable. Read reviews about the quality of the merchandise, and make sure you’re not buying cheap and/or counterfeit goods.
- Use secure, traceable transactions when making payments for goods and services. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Say 'no' to cash-only deals, high-pressure sales tactics, high upfront payments, overpayments, and handshake deals without a contract.
- Be wary of free trial offers. Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and bill you every month until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy. And always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognise.
4. Bitcoin scams
Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoins may well seem a good way to make money, but they are pretty complicated and very confusing to new users.
What’s more, they aren’t very well regulated, all of which makes them an ideal target for scammers.
There are a number of Bitcoin scams including:
- Fake exchange and wallets
- Ponzi or pyramid schemes
This type of scam occurs when you receive an unsolicited email that looks as if it’s from your bank — or, in this case, from your crypto exchange or wallet provider.
This email contains a link that takes you to a site that looks almost identical to the exchange or wallet you usually use, but is actually a scam site.
- Always double-check URLs to make sure you’re visiting the genuine website.
- Don’t click on suspicious links that are emailed to you.
- Never disclose your private key.
Fake exchange and fake wallet scams
Keep an eye out for fake bitcoin exchanges. They might seem a reputable exchange, but they’re merely a front to separate consumers from their hard-earned cash.
- Stick with well-known and popular exchanges
- Research any exchange or wallet before creating an account
- Don’t be pressured into depositing funds or providing any personal information.
- Don’t just randomly pick a wallet from the app store — only download apps and software from legitimate wallet providers and exchanges.
Ponzi or pyramid schemes
These schemes try to lure you with the promise of unusually high returns. The scammer gives you initial payouts from the money deposited by newer investors.
Now satisfied that the scheme is legit, you pump more of your money into the scheme and may encourage others to do the same.
Sooner or later, the scheme collapses, and the scammer runs off with the money.
- Look out for cryptocurrency projects that encourage you to recruit new investors to enjoy bigger profits.
- Never trust a scheme that promises returns that sound too good to be true.
5. Facebook impersonation scam (hijacked profile scam)
Love it or hate it, Facebook is still the most popular social media network which people use on a daily basis to keep in touch with friends and colleagues. Unfortunately, it’s also very popular with online scammers - cybercriminals who want to hack your account and get access to your close friends and family.
Since it’s so important for your privacy and online security, you should be as careful protecting your personal online accounts, as you are protecting your banking or email account.
WorldRemit tips on how to avoid impersonation scams:
- Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know
- Don’t share your password with others
- When logging in, use two-factor authentication
- Avoid connecting to public and free Wi-Fi networks
- Keep your browser and apps updated
- Add an additional layer of security and use proactive cybersecurity software.
6. Greeting card scams
It’s your birthday – so it wouldn’t be surprising to get a greeting card in your inbox from a friend or loved one. But beware, it could be an internet scam used by malicious actors trying to inject malware and harvest your most valuable data.
If you open such an email and click on the card, you usually end up with malicious software being downloaded and installed on your operating system.
And if your system becomes infected with such dangerous malware, your computer will start sending private data and financial information to a fraudulent server controlled by IT criminals.
Not such a happy birthday!
WorldRemit tip on how to avoid greeting card scams:
To keep yourself safe from identity theft and data breaches we recommend updating your antivirus software regularly to protect yourself against malware.
What to do when you have been scammed?
If you’ve been scammed, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from things getting worse. What you need to do depends on what’s happened. But if you feel threatened, always call the police.
1. Protect yourself from further risks
If the scammer has accessed your computer:
- Reset your passwords
- Let your bank know your financial information might have been stolen
- Make sure you update your anti-virus software
- You could also get an IT professional to check your computer.
If you think your account details or PIN have been stolen:
- Contact your bank immediately so they can protect your account.
- After you’ve told your bank about the scam, keep an eye on your bank statements and look out for any unusual transactions. Also, check your credit score.
If you think your password could have been stolen:
- Change your password as soon as possible.
- If you’ve used the same password on any other accounts you should change it there, too.
2. Check if you can get your money back
If you’ve lost money because of a scam, there might be things you can do to get it back. Check with the bank or credit card you made the payment with.
3. Report the scam
Reporting a scam to the website/network you’ve been scammed on, the police or citizens advice in your country will help enforcement authorities track down and stop the criminals responsible.
Don’t let them get away with it.
Stay safe online!