Internet scams have become a common and pervasive facet of modern-day web life. In 2014, Internet thieves scammed people out of more than $13 billion dollars, and the number doesn’t seem to be going down anytime soon. Millions of people annually fall prey to the increasingly complex and clever schemes used by Internet fraudsters, many of whom are now including personal information, easily retrieved from social media.
To spot an Internet scam, look for emails and offers which appear to offer something for nothing. Whether it be the archaic yet widespread Nigerian prince or the IRS asking you to send them an Amazon gift card to pay for your delinquent balance, it pays to be a vigilant consumer. While some can be easier to spot (such as seeing http:// rather than httpS:// [s means “secure”] or seeing an “official” email from your bank come from email@example.com), others can be trickier to pick up on, such as requests to donate to victims of natural disasters. (Hint: If anyone pushes you to wire money, it’s most likely a scam.) To find out about these scams and thus protect yourself against them, check out this list of 25 Dumbest Internet Scams People Unfortunately Fall For.
The dignified Nigerian prince
No list about Internet scams would be complete without the iconic Nigerian email scam. The story goes that a rich Nigerian prince (or the lawyer for a foreigner who recently died with no heirs) wants to get money out of the country. In exchange for using your bank account as safe keeping, he’ll give you a pretty hefty cut of the cash. The catch is he always starts by asking for money from you – to pay for bribes, taxes, bank fees, and anything else he can think of.
The natural disaster scam
Humans naturally feel a desire to help others in need which is why we see such a massive outpouring of global support and funds to areas hit by disaster. Internet scam artists try to cash in on people’s generosity by creating fake websites or sending fake emails asking you for money to help the victims of the tragedy. The only victim in this scenario becomes your bank account, a bit lighter after you send off a few hundred bucks.
Robbed on vacation
Have you ever received an email from a friend’s true email address, claiming they were mugged at gunpoint on their trip to Macedonia? (Did you even know they were going to Macedonia?) This Internet scam goes that your friend had all his/her money, valuables, and credit cards stolen, and needs your help to pay off the hotel bills or to buy a flight home. Hopefully you don’t send any money because all of these schemes are just malware that hackers have installed onto your friend’s computer.
The friendly greeting card
The holidays are high time for people to send off warm greetings, and scammers know this. Internet thieves jump in on the holiday cheer, sending millions of fake holiday greeting e-cards each year. To open the card, a message often appears that you have to update your flash player. You click update, but what really gets updated is your computer – with a fresh set of malware and spyware, compromising your security.
The generous Craigslist scammer
Craigslist can be a great place to sell your stuff – until you fall for a scam. Let’s say you’re trying to sell your old drone and someone wants to pay you triple the asking price to ship it to her in Italy. Sounds great. She mails you a check to cover the price of the drone and shipping; you deposit it into your bank and send over the drone and part of the fee to cover the cost of shipping. Seems like you made a nice profit, until your bank calls to tell you the check was a forgery and now you’re out $500 and your drone.