Online scams are a major problem not only in the United States, but globally. In 2020 alone, Scamwatch has already reported over $36 million lost to online scams. Scammers target any one they can reach digitally, so virtually no one is off limits. If you have a personal email address, you’ve almost certainly been the target of an online scam.
Scammers are finding new and creative ways to take advantage of victims. They pressure and decieve people with fear and promises and use data to personalize attacks. Protect yourself against fraudsters by reviewing the following tips for how to tell if someone is scamming you online.
While we like to think of our personal email accounts as being private, the truth is that it is very easy for scammers to collect massive lists of email addresses. When we are contacted on our private accounts, it is easy to assume the person on the other end is well-meaning as long as the text is friendly and personal. However, you should be cautious of any unexpected contact — no matter how innocent the initial message may seem. Scammers look to build trust first and then take advantage of their target.
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Whenever someone is trying to rush you into a decision by making grand promises in exchange for your information, it’s a good time to take a step back and evaluate their credentials. Scammers are known for get-rich-quick ploys. If someone has a legitimate service or product to offer you, they don’t need to dress it up with promises that sound miraculous.
Asking for Wire Transfer
As a good rule of thumb, you should never wire money to someone you haven’t known for a long time. Wire transfers are convenient — they avoid dealing with third parties who charge transaction fees, but this convenience is what makes funds so hard to recover after a scam. Fraudsters do not have to verify their identity if they are not working through highly-secure companies like PayPal, so there is often no way to identify or locate them.
One classic scam involves money orders and wire transfers. Fraudsters will contact sellers on platforms like Craigslist or OfferUp requesting to pay for an item with a money order. Money orders are easier to counterfeit than personal checks and scammers take advantage of this. A scammer will send a counterfeit money order with a total greater than the agreed upon price only to contact the seller in a panic requesting they wire transfer the difference. Unsuspecting victims are out the difference and left with nothing but a fake money order.
Scams involving threats can be very costly. In some cases, scammers demand ransom and attempt to frighten their victims into a transaction. Other cases see scammers attempt to blackmail their targets. The truth is that many of these threats are empty and/or punishable by law. If you receive online threats, report them to the appropriate authority.
Posing as Authority Figure
Scammers will pose as authority figures to take advantage of law-abiding people. They can use location data to find information about local authorities in your area and use it against you. Victims have even cited examples of scammers creating email accounts in the name of local police figures and imitating them. Any government body or financial institution with authority will have an office and a phone number. Contact them directly to discuss urgent matters.
Claiming to be Victims
Disasters happen. In times of crisis, many of us want to help. But any stranger contacting you directly and claiming to be a victim in need of support is likely attempting to scam you. Relief organizations and crowdfunding platforms are much more secure and transparent for making donations to those in need. Don’t let a scammer take advantage of your good intentions.
Check Email Address
A red flag that can blow a scammer’s entire operation is their email address’s domain. Domain names have become more dynamic as the demand for web addresses grows. While we’re used to seeing domains that end in “.com”, alternate endings like “.io”, “.co” and “.ai” are becoming more prevalent.
Scammers have used the rising popularity of alternate domains to their advantage. Setting up their own domain names, they play off of widely-known domain names to fool victims. An email address ending in the fictional “@Googel.Ai” could fool anyone as being affiliated with Google, overseeing the improper spelling of the company’s name in the address. If you pay close attention to email addresses from suspicious accounts, scammers become much easier to identify.
Seek Recourse with Legal Representation
If you are familiar with any of the above experiences, you may have been the victim of an online scam. The good news is that you can take action. Scammers leave a trail behind, and our legal experts are trained to find them and facilitate repayment. We can help you recover your losses if you were victimized by an online scam. Contact Parnall and Adams Law today for a consultation.