7 online scams and how to avoid them

Some scams are so bald-faced and ungainly that you wonder that anyone still falls for them. Others have a reasonable finish of plausibility that can seduce the unwary. Keeping that in mind, here’s a run-down of some of the most harmful online rip-offs as well as one or two that add a new spin to the art of online deception.

Nigerian (419) Scam

This one, which plays on greed, is one of the oldest digital rip-offs on the books. You get an email from a affluent Nigerian who needs help in transferring millions of dollars from his motherland. If you are able to assist in the process, the email continues, you’ll receive a sizable cut of the fortune as a reward.

The different types of scam    

eBay Buyer Remorse

Buying on eBay can be great fun as well as a source of bargains on a whole abundance of goods and services. It can also be a disillusioning experience if you never receive the goods you bid on and paid for, or if what you gets doesn’t live up to the seller’s description. A bulk of eBay sellers are genuine and go the extra mile to maintain their good standing. In a barrel this large, though, there will be some bad apples. Avoiding them is the best way to not get ripped off.
eBay suggested looking at a seller’s feedback before hitting the buy button. Just click on the seller’s feedback score next to the seller’s user ID. If you’re dealing with a new seller who doesn’t have any feedback or with one who has negative feedback, use the “ask a question” link to converse directly with the seller. You should also look at the icons by the seller’s user ID to learn more about them.

Gone Phishing

Identity theft is living and well online. One of the slicker phishing ploys making the rounds comes in the form of official looking emails claiming to be from a bank, credit card company or site such as Best Buy or eBay asking you to verify your account details and password. The email is usually tricked out with genuine looking logos and authoritative text reassuring the recipient that their security is a supreme concern and includes a link for you to use in the verification process. Don’t do it.

There may be subtle clues that the email is not as it seems, such as the return header containing a Hotmail address. The best clue, though, is that lawful companies never request this kind of information via email. If in doubt, go to the institution’s official web site by typing its URL in the address bar of your browser, not by clicking on any links in the email you received. The scam may be listed on the home page. If in doubt about the authenticity of the email you received, call or email the institution’s customer support department.

Disaster Scams

Your gentle impulses offer rip-off artists an opening to take another shot at your wallet in the wake of well-publicized disasters such as Hurricane Katrina or the earthquake that devastated Haiti. The latest to raise its larcenous head uses the Iceland volcano that grounded flights around the world as its vector.

The fraudsters hack email accounts and start sending emails to that account’s contacts list. A mournful message is sent out saying that the account holder is stranded because of the outbreak and needs money to get home. The receiver is instructed to contact the sender on where to send the money and the message includes an email address that looks like it comes from a Gmail account but is slightly different. A quick phone call can defuse this little bit of skullduggery.

Your Resume Has Come to Our Attention

Remember, stealing your time is as much a rip-off as taking your dollars. The major job search sites such as Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com do a good job of directly channeling job hunters to apposite opportunities without inundating them with sales pitches or making them jump through hoops to browse job listings and details.

But there are some that take your job seeker and use it as a vehicle to upsell you to paid memberships if you want access to premium job listings or solicitations to fix your resume for a fee. Some are infamous for offering personalized analysis that in actuality prove to be prescribed boilerplate based on the keywords you use in your resume. The companies that do this are relentless. The best litmus test for a job search site is this: Does it spend more time steering me to the services it sells or to genuine job openings?

Craigslist Connivers

Craigslist is a wild and woolly bazaar of goods for sale, apartments for rent, jobs listings and meeting people. Because it’s faceless and usually free to use, it also offers safe haven for rip-off artists. Craigslist apartment listings, chiefly in large metro areas such as New York City, are well-known hotbeds of fraudulent activity.

You see a listing for an incredible rental in a desirable neighborhood at a below-market price. Because it’s such a great deal and will rent quickly, you’re asked for an advance deposit, even though you won’t be able to see the apartment before forking over your money. You can see where this is going. Fraudguide.com reports that one woman running this scam collected $60,000 in rent and security deposits from several dozen different people. If you’re looking for an apartment on Craigslist, park your trust at the door and do your due diligence.

Phony Anti-Virus Software

Fake anti-virus programs account for 15 percent of all malicious software, according to a new Google study. Computer users are tricked into downloading these programs when a window pops up on their screen telling them that their computer has been affected by a virus. It offers a link to an antivirus program they can download that claims it will cure the problem. It won’t, since there’s no problem to begin with, but it will either steal the user’s data or demand a payment of $40 or more to register the fake product. Sometimes it does both.
The best cure is to not click anything and close down your browser. Know what anti-virus programs are installed on your computer and make sure they’re up to date. They should already be protecting you.

2 Response to "7 online scams and how to avoid them"

  1. ulfwolf says:
    June 26, 2010 at 12:31 AM

    Great post.

    Perhaps I can just add to this that the best way to guard against being ripped off by online sales or auctions of any kind, Craigslist and eBay included—and whether seller or buyer—is to use a *bona fide* online escrow company. Especially for pricier items like antiques, jewelry and autos. Although it does add some cost, it takes the uncertainty out of the transaction, and that’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

    For my money, the best bona fide online escrow (and there seems to be ten fraudulent escrow sites for every bona fide one) is probably Escrow.com (http://escrow.com). In fact, it’s the only one that eBay recommends, and is the only online escrow company that is licensed to provide escrow services all across the United States.

    Take care,

    Ulf Wolf

  2. web basics says:
    June 29, 2010 at 7:29 AM

    it seems to me that you are really crusading against scammers. i wonder if you have been a victim of scams? i hope there are more dedicated blogs such as yours.

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