Top 10 Worst Internet Scams

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Let’s face it; in a world that is heavily reliant upon technology, especially the Internet, none of us are entirely safe from running into an online scam. There are literally thousands of them, and even though you may consider yourself “e-smart,” the people who set up these scams may be looking to target those who consider themselves to be too educated to ever fall for a scam, as they are the least likely to put up their walls and push the scammer away. According to scambusters.org, “being smart is NOT enough to protect yourself from Internet scams.”

According to Internet World Stats about 1,802,330,457 people use the Internet. That’s a huge number, and with large numbers of people, there is always a few “bad apples” in the bunch. Since the Internet is so widely available, it’s no surprise that people would attempt to scam others out of money and sometimes their identity. Scams are so prevalent in today’s world that the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has said that over 560 million dollars have been lost to internet scams and fraud. In 2009 alone, the number of people who made a complaint about a scam online increased by 20% to a whopping 336,655 complaints.

Below is a list of 10 of the most successful Internet scams. Some are extremely popular these days while others have taken the backburner to more seemingly successful scams. If you ever run into something you believe is a scam, remember the old phrase: “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.”

While your presence online can expose you to Internet scams, you can also use the Internet to protect yourself. Onguardonline.gov invites you to stop and think before you click, while providing useful resources to help you guard against scams. US readers: don’t forget to report attempted scams to the FBI’s Internet Complaint Center (link above). You can also report complaints for cross-border scams at econsumer.gov.

5. Fake Auctions/Sales

With the popularity of places such as eBay, Craigslist, and other auction websites growing each day, it’s no surprise that fake auctions and fake sales would start to become an issue online. Many people use these websites on a daily basis to obtain items at a discounted price; and where you find people with money, you will also usually find scammers trying to take it off their hands. At first, it looks like an opportunity to save money, but in the end many people are left empty-handed and out some bucks. These fake auction and sales scams usually happen pretty frequently and in the blink of an eye. It’s simple. The scammer creates an ad or auction on a website, stating that he has a certain item for sale, usually something that is pretty expensive to begin with, for a very low price. The scammer knows that people will jump all over this “deal,” without even stopping to think that it could be fake and just a luring act for money. Plenty of people fall for it, making this particular scam a huge success.

What’s the attraction?

Saving money. Who doesn’t want to be able to save a few bucks on an expensive item? Coupons are good, but coupons aren’t always offered on the newest electronics, so people will look at other ways to save. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll look in the Sunday paper and find a coupon for Apple’s iPad or Sony’s new Playstation console; it just doesn’t happen. Craigslist and eBay have become the perfect websites to go to if you’re looking to buy items for cheaper than they’d cost in the store. However, the amount of scamming that goes on is unbelievable and many people end up regretting their decision. Sometimes it’s best to fork out a few extra dollars and buy the product in a store, but this doesn’t mean that every auction or online sale you find is a scam. If the deal seems like a ‘steal’, remember you may be the one getting ripped off.

 

10. Lottery Scams
Have you ever received an email stating that you’ve won the lottery in some other country, usually with a total of a few million dollars? If so, you know all about lottery scams. These scams target people with the promise of millions of dollars, which will be deposited into their bank accounts after completing a few easy steps. However, the catch is that you must pay thousands of dollars ahead of time before you receive your promised millions. Sadly, once you hand over your thousands, your lottery win is nowhere to be found, and you’re out money. Though it seems silly, what’s a few thousand dollars compared to a couple million?

What’s the attraction?

Money. In the world we live in today, money is the way of the world. Money is power, and people are always looking for a way to get rich quickly. Sadly, these opportunities are very far and few between. Many people will jump at the chance to get their hands on millions of dollars without thinking that it could be a scam that will inevitably leave them empty-handed. It’s a case of leaping before you look, and victims of lottery scams end up in debt or out of a lot of money.
9. Disaster Relief

Recently, disaster relief scams have been on the rise. In a country’s time of need, money is usually the best donation to provide, and scammers have become well aware of this. Generally, these scammers will send out emails with a link to a fake donation website that asks you to make a donation, usually by using your debit or credit card online. However, by providing this information, such as your card number, the scammers have access to your information which could then provide them access to your money. In the end you’re out of money, some scammer has your information, and you never really donated to the real cause. Make sure you donate your money to a reliable organization, at the correct web address. If your request for a donation came through email, it’s probably a phishing scam. Take the time to research a real relief fund before you donate money.

What’s the attraction?

Many like to believe that most of the world’s population is caring and wants to be of assistance in the time of a disaster or crisis somewhere in the world. When a large amount of people die in a country or many are left homeless due to a natural disaster, many people come together and decide to donate money, usually through online programs to help relief efforts. With disasters in New Orleans, Haiti, New York City, China, Chile, and many other locations, disaster relief scams have become extremely popular. The fact is that people want to help, but sometimes scammers are able to take advantage of the sympathetic nature of some people to benefit for themselves.

Check out our list “Top Ten Charity Scams” for more information about this topic.
8. Online Dating

Today, online dating websites have become extremely popular. Participants set up a dating profile on one of the online dating websites that promise to give you access to hundreds of potential partners. Be warned, that this also gives online scammers access to you!  For example, let’s say one of the fellow members messages you, and over time the connection grows and becomes pretty strong. The member has led you to believe that he or she is pretty well off. Next, your online boyfriend or girlfriend tells you that he/she is out of the country doing business and needs your assistance with a few things. The scam starts when that person wants you to cash a money order and wire the money. Those who fall for the scam are hurt both emotionally and financially.

What’s the attraction?

Internet dating can be great for people who find it challenging to find dating partners in their daily life. Cashing a money order and wiring the money for someone else doesn’t seem to alarm many people, because people fall for this scam regularly. Perhaps the victim believes that the bank won’t cash a counterfeit or altered money order. In fact, it can be several weeks before their bank gets this information from the bank that issued the item and when this happens they want their money back. Or, perhaps when you’ve made a connection with someone, the trust level is high enough to believe that the transaction is legitimate. When the person you’ve been talking to for months seems promising, it’s hard to differentiate between lies and a true scam.
7. Rogue Software

Have you ever been to a legitimate website and had a sudden pop-up that says something along the lines that your computer if infected with viruses and worms and needs to be cleaned ASAP? This is another popular scam today as many people will fall for the pop-up and then download the rogue software, usually software that looks like it is legitimate anti-virus software that promises to clean your computer of all of the viruses. Though many times this rogue software is free, there are times when the program does cost money, and people do fall for it. While many people generally aren’t out of money with this scam, their computer is infected with even more viruses, Trojans, worms, and other things that can not only ruin the computer, but can have their private information exposed to the scammers.

What’s the attraction?

Some people who see an alert that their computer is infected, panic and go to extremes to ensure that the computer is fixed right away. Scammers know that many people will fall for rogue software simply because the software is right there, and there is no need to go out and buy a program or search the internet for another program that may work. This rogue software looks just like real anti-virus software, so people don’t even know the difference. It’s always best to have anti-virus software already installed on your computer. Never download software from an unfamiliar website.

1. Nigerian 419

Most people today have an email account that they use for various purposes. Of course there are the occasional spam emails that many of us just put into the junk folder, but on some days, we get an email that is really shocking. If you’ve ever received an email, usually from a Nigerian member of a family that comes from a lot of wealth stating that they are attempting to get a very large amount of money out of the country, you were a possible-victim of the Nigerian 419 scam. Usually these emails call out for your help in order to get this money moved into the U.S.

But, these emails are nothing less than a scam. It is said that over $32 billion has been lost. The Nigerian 419 scams are one of the most popular today, and the number of scammers who use this tactic continues to grow. It is said that there are about 300,000 of these scammers in the world today, but the number is steadily increasing.

What’s the attraction?

Of course like many scams on this list, the Nigerian 419 scams seem too good to be true, but somehow people fall for them. Simply, people like money. If you were given the opportunity to receive half of a million dollars for simply helping to transport money from another country, it might be very tempting, particularly if you are unaware that this is illegal. People fall for this scam each year: the promise of such a large amount of money is sometimes enough to make a gullible Internet-user fall for a huge scam.
6. Travel and Vacation Scams

It’s safe to say that in today’s world, many people are cutting out their yearly vacation in order to make ends meet at home. And while people are giving up their travels, it doesn’t mean that they necessarily want to, and it surely doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t take a vacation deal if someone offered it to them. This is why scammers who run travel and vacation scams are cashing in each day. Unknowing consumers will seek out a vacation deal, usually one that is seriously too good to even begin to believe. Something like a trip to Disney, all expenses paid, you just give us a few hundred dollars. Who would believe that? Sadly, some people do. These scams aren’t as popular as before, as people have smartened up, but at the same time they’re also on the rise, as more and more people are looking for ways to continue their normal lifestyles, and that usually comes in the form of saving money and attempting to find any type of deal that may be out there to enjoy.

What’s the attraction?

Scammers are highly aware of today’s financial situation in many countries. They know that people don’t have as much money sitting around as they did before. They know that people are choosing to give up their yearly vacation in order to make sure that all of their bills are paid. They also know that people are looking for a way out and seeking things that are often too good to be true. Anyone who plans a yearly vacation knows just how nice it is to take a week or so off work and just relax and leave things behind for a few days. Scammers know this too, and they know that if they offer someone a good deal on a vacation, many will take it. Who wouldn’t want to go on a trip for a lot less than it would generally cost? With people seeking deals, scammers are looking for steals. In the end it all boils down to money, and usually by the end of this type of scam, the scammer comes out the winner.

4. “Free” Trial

We’ve all seen the ads and pop-ups on certain websites that promise a free trial of some sort of product: weight-loss pills, a colon cleanse, or dieting pills. We all know how expensive these products can be, so many people will fall for the free trial scam. While many do get the free product they were promised, the scam starts when you have to provide your banking information to pay for shipping and handling fees. With the information you provide, the company can then charge you each month for not canceling your free trial. Usually the cancellation notice is in a very fine print that most people pay no attention to. However, after not canceling your free trial within 15 or 30 days, your debit or credit card is billed monthly. Sometimes even after canceling, the company who has your banking information will sell it to an affiliate company who can then use it as they please.

What’s the attraction?

Free stuff! Who doesn’t like free stuff? Free is good. Free means no money is spent and free means you get to try something without providing any sort of money for the product itself. The catch is that when you provide your banking information to pay for shipping, you’re giving this company access to take out amounts of money each month for your “free trial.”  Most people don’t remember to cancel, so in the end you could be out money for a product that was never free at all. Thankfully if you contact your bank, many times the bank will cover these fees and ensure that you are safe from the company taking more money out of your account.
3. Working from Home

Not only do these scams mean you’re out of money, but it could mean that your computer is left nothing short of…ruined. These scams usually have a situation where you are given the opportunity to work at home, making your computer a “money-making machine” by doing very simple things. However, you aren’t told what these things are and how to locate them on the Internet without paying a few dollars. The catch is that you’re paying for information that you often don’t receive, or that often has nothing to do with working from home. Often times you are guaranteed that within 24 hours you’ll have full access to information and programs that allow your computer to make money for you, without much effort on your part. But this is just another scam and you’ve provided your banking information, and many times you’ve installed rogue software that will only ruin your computer.

What’s the attraction?

Who wouldn’t want to work in their pajamas and slippers all day while sipping a cup of hot coffee? Many people would love to be able to have a job like this, and this is why people get sucked into the work at home scams. Working at home is easy and requires less energy than it does to work outside of your home. Paying a measly $5 seems like nothing when you can have the great opportunity of not having to drive to work each day. But many times you get nothing in return from the $5 that you put out, and you’re left with the same early morning routine.
2. PayPal

Many times with these PayPal scams, one is scammed when they have someone respond to an online ad they have placed on Craigslist or some other similar site. The scammers will usually respond to the ad, stating that they are interested in the product that is being sold and that the product will be sent to a friend or family member within the U.S. Many times these scammers are people from a foreign country who are promising to pay more money than what the seller asked for in the first place. After shipping the item and after the seller pays, you’ll realize that soon enough, PayPal has taken the money from your account, and that you’re out of the item you were trying to sell. Many times the “buyer” will contact PayPal saying that they never received the item, or in even worse cases, the scammer will be using a fake PayPal address or a stolen account.

What’s the attraction?

When you’re desperately trying to get rid of an item, you are probably pretty impatient and anxious to get rid of it. So when someone responds you probably don’t think twice about the possibility that the person on the other side is a scammer that is trying to get your item without paying for it. People fall for it simply because many times the scammer is giving them more money that what was asked for and because they really just want to get rid of the item and have money to spend elsewhere.

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Top 10 Worst Internet Scams | Gunawan | 4.5