Last Thursday, Panda Security, an IT security company, released a list of the most frequently used Internet scams of the last decade. Unless you just started using the Internet today, you have likely been exposed to one of the scams that made Panda's rankings.
As no surprise for those familiar with online scams, the African nation of Nigeria appears to have been at the center of the action. Take a look at the following list and see if any sound familiar. The schemes are listed in order, with the most widely used one coming first.
Nigerian Scam: The Nigerian scam was the pioneer of online schemes, and it still goes strong to this day. Usually an email is sent where the source claims that they need to extract a large amount of money out of a country. That country is typically Nigeria, and the scammer states that if you help them, you will receive a handsome monetary reward. To do so, you must fork over bank fees. After the bank fees are sent, the scammer takes the money and disappears.
Lotteries: In this scam, you would receive an email stating that you just won the lottery. To claim your prize, you must pay bank fees or some other expense and provide bank account information. After victims pay such fees, their money is gone for good, without any rewards in return.
The Girlfriend Ploy: People's hearts are usually vulnerable, and this ploy attacks that weakness. Online dating sites are the source, where an attractive pseudo-mate, often from Russia, usually declares interest in marriage or making a visit to the victim. To do so, the victim must send money for airfare or expenses. After doing so, they never hear from their so-called lover again.
Job Offers: Everybody loves easy work. In this scheme, an email is received from an overseas company seeking financial agents. They claim that you can work from home and earn thousands per week. All you must do is provide your bank account information. Once the criminals have it, they use it as an avenue to accept stolen money from other victims, and finally ask that you send the stolen earnings to them through Western Union. In the end, once the theft is reported, you are seen as part of a theft ring.
Facebook / Hotmail: Friends usually lend helping hands, and scammers use that to their advantage here. They will hack into a Facebook or Hotmail account, and then send a phony message to the victim's contacts stating that they were robbed overseas and need hotel money. London seems to be the popular fictitious destination of choice for this scam.
Compensation: As a play on the original Nigerian scam, this one starts with an email stating that you can be compensated for your losses originating from other Nigerian con artists. To receive your unclaimed damages, however, you must send in an advance somewhere around $1,000. In the end, those who send the money are $1,000 poorer.
The Mistake: Those who place items for sale on Craigslist or other sites are usually targets here. A scammer will send a message claiming interest in your vehicle, or other item for sale. They send a bad check for more than the original amount, stating that they made an error. They ask that you send them the overage, and when you do, you realize that the original check bounces, and you just lost your cash.
How can you protect yourself? Your best bet is to follow your brain and not your heart. If it's too good to be true, it is most likely a scam.
Another good method is that if you really think it is a legitimate offer, look it up first. You are probably not the first and only person to be exposed to it, and there are plenty of online forums for people to investigate and report on such matters. A little bit of legwork can go a long way in helping you defeat an online con artist.
Additionally, never, ever, give out personal information. Do not disclose any bank account information or anything of the sort. And if someone states that you must send money in order to take part, run like the wind.
Avoid falling into the get-rich-quick mentality, thinking that this is your lucky day. If you do fall into it, you are just making it the scammer's lucky day. A fool and his money is soon parted; that holds true in the online world as well.
For more, visit: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-20015433-83.html
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