Aside from all previous articles in this series, there are many more online scams to look out for. Here are some of the most popular plays making the rounds right now.
Fake antivirus software popup
We mentioned popups in the tech support scam. A common one you might have already seen is a popup prompting you to download antivirus software. However, when you follow the prompt, you could end up with malware instead.
Fake websites are usually used in phishing scams. Typically, a replica of a legitimate website is used to encourage targets to enter details such as credentials, banking information and personal details.
Counterfeit goods sites
This is a more specific example of a fake website and is a big problem. Replicas of reputable websites may be used to make counterfeit goods seem legitimate. For example, brands like Ugg, Coach and Michael Kors have had their websites copied almost exactly to make consumers believe they are purchasing genuine goods from the real brand.
Dating and romance scams
Dating and romance scams are some of the oldest in the book, but as long as people are looking for love, they won’t be going away. In fact, in the US, romance scams account for the largest financial losses of all internet crimes. Fraudsters may contact targets through phone, email, text, social media or dating sites.
They typically pose as a different person, including creating completely fake profiles (this is called catfishing), and often work in groups. The ultimate goal might be to get victims to pay money, hand over personal information or aid in illegal activities.
We mentioned travel ticket scams previously, but would-be concert goers and sporting event attendees are also common targets of ticket scams. They purchase tickets online and show up to the event to find out they’re holding fakes.
The rental scam preys on those desperately searching for a place to call home. Rental ads are posted with below-average prices, attracting plenty of buyers. Would-be landlords explain that viewings are not available since they are overseas but they will happily issue a refund if you’re not satisfied. First and last month’s rent are typically required to secure the rental property. The fake landlord may also have renters fill out a form which includes banking information along with other personal details.
SMS scams (smishing scams) are variations on phishing and vishing scams and involve the use of text messages. SMS, or text messaging, is built into just about every phone on the planet. As phones become more internet connected, many of us have transitioned to instant messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. But good old SMS messaging is almost always available. Scammers know that and can use it to target you.
Smishing texts usually have much the same aims as any other kind of fraud. Scammers may want you to click a link to download malware or adware, or bring you to a convincing looking phishing page in order to trick you into providing your login credentials for a website. Others might provide a number to call as a transition to a vishing scamming method.
While these often follow similar plays to email and voice scams, there are some more specific cases, such as trying to get you to activate a new credit card or telling you an account is expiring.
Amazon phishing scam
In this rather complex scheme, targets order products on Amazon from third-party sellers. They don’t receive the item so call the seller to inquire. The seller prompts the buyer to complete the transaction outside of Amazon, so gets paid and has access to payment information.
Amazon delivery scam
This is a slightly different angle to the one above, but is also orchestrated by third-party sellers. In this case they ship empty packages to wrong addresses where they are signed for by someone who is in on the scam. Since the package is signed for, the victim often has problems when trying to make a claim with Amazon.
Astroturfing (advertising scam)
Astroturfing has been around for a long time and its definition can be loosely defined as a company creating fake support around its product in order to attract customers. One famous example was McDonalds paying employees to stand in line to create buzz around the release of the Quarter Pounder in Japan. With the persuasive power of online reviews, these have become a means for digital astroturfing.
Companies simply pay people to write fake glowing reviews on supposedly unbiased review sites. There are even Facebook groups dedicated to swapping online reviews for specific sites like Amazon or specific product types, for example, books.
Consumers rely heavily on these reviews when making purchases and ultimately end up with a subpar product or service or nothing at all.
There are a broad range of continuity scams out there but they typically follow similar patterns. Popups for surveys offering free gifts or amazing deals lead victims to enter credit card details to pay for minimal fees or shipping. Often hidden in the small print are exorbitant ongoing monthly fees that can be near impossible to cancel. In this case, you’ll likely have to contact your card issuer to stop future fees, but it’s unlikely you get reimbursed for those already paid. This is another reason to always check your statements as these could easily go unnoticed.
Stock market scam
This scam is along the same lines as astroturfing and is conducted very much out in the open. It involves articles or other methods and materials which persuade potential investors to contribute funds based on exaggerated predictions. In April 2017, the SEC enforced actions against 27 individuals and entities for such fraudulent promotions of stocks.
Most of us have sold something online at some point, but it’s seller beware. Some scammers are using a tactic whereby they fake a pending payment to encourage the release of goods. This might be a bogus PayPal or email transfer message to say that payment will be released once tracking information is received. Once you do actually send the goods, no payment is ever received.
The overpayment is another one for sellers to watch out for. It usually relates to the sale of items or services, often through classified ads. The scammer sends you payment for whatever you are selling but sends too much. They ask you to refund the difference. In the meantime (hopefully for them, it’s after you send the money) their payment is canceled or retracted. So you’ve received no payment at all but have issued them a partial refund.