Article

Digital Scams

Scams

What are digital scams?

All frauds that are perpetrated online thru the use of digital devices (e.g. computer, tablet, smartphones) resulting for the victim in the loss of money, personal information or passwords.

Background on digital scams

The web has opened up the possibility of reaching large numbers of people easily and inexpensively. A growing number of digital scams involves foreign and international organized crime spanning across several countries. The fraudster’s ultimate goal is to benefit financially from the victim’s ignorance and/or gullibility.

While a lot of scams are attempted each day it is still possible to use and benefit securely from the many possibilities that the internet offer to us by following the “rules of the game”.

Remember : Scammers will always try to rush you into a decision! Either by offering some attractive limited opportunity or by creating a sense of urgency by deception!

Remember the Fundamentals!

Be healthily skeptical. Check things out thoroughly. Never make decisions in a hurry!

Some popular online scams

E-COMMERCE SCAMS

Online platforms are often excellent places to find both new and secondhand items.  

  • Small items, utensils, electric appliances
  • ”Miracle products”,  cosmetics
  • Household and Personal items
  • Other goods or services and basically just about everything that can be sold

Be aware though that there is the possibility of being scammed. Scammers will post FAKE ADS on e-commerce platforms and may approach you through e-mail or on social media platforms with an OFFER. In order to lure the victims, the scammer advertises the item at a low price, often much lower than comparable items. The item in reality does not exist and once the payment is done, the fraudster “disappears” and stop answering.

  • If the advertised price of a good, service or any item looks too good to be true, it probably is not. If you have any doubts, don’t go ahead with the deal.
  • Do an internet search using the exact wording in the ad, many well-known scams can be found this way.
  • Always check the refunds and cancellations policy.

Tips for online buyers

Don’t trust an ad that says you can buy a pet from overseas in a few weeks as there are quarantine procedures that need to be followed.

Avoid any arrangement where the dealer asks for payment via unusual payment methods like pre-loaded card or electronic currency,  like Bitcoin. It is very difficult to recover money sent this way.

Tips for online sellers

The most frequent form of scam affecting sellers is the “overpayment scam”.  The scammer will pay via cheque for a larger sum than agreed attributing it to human error. Then will proceed to ask you for a refund of the excess amount by online bank transfer before you discover that their original cheque has bounced. The seller loses both the product sold and the money.

Check that the e-commerce platform has a secure connection.

Make sure the web address of the e-commerce platform you are using  is secured by checking its web address, the location bar on your browser should look like this: https:// Always check that there is an “S” immediately after http in the web address. It protects against man-in-the-middle attacks, and the bidirectional encryption of communications between a client and server protects the communications against eavesdropping and tampering. In practice, this provides a reasonable assurance that one is communicating with the intended website without interference from attackers. See for example the web address of the Consumers’ Union of Finland https://www.kuluttajaliitto.fi

INVESTMENT SCAMS

The fraudsters contacts actively their victims using  in the vast majority of cases e-mail or the phone. This unsolicited contact by a stranger should already raise a red flag. The person will present the chance to realize a big profit in a short period of time manipulating the victim into believing that the offer is one of a kind and an un-missable opportunity.

Spurious web sites promoting false   investment opportunities can be created and the use of paid Facebook advertisement can add a layer of credibility that can make you think the opportunity is genuine. Online fraudster can propose a wide variety of scams and these include investments in :

  • Precious metals, gold, silver
  • Rare coins
  • Stamps
  • Crypto-currencies
  • Land schemes
  • Alternative energy sources

Victims on reply are asked to pay an upfront sum to initiate the operation and take advantage of the offer. Once the money is paid the scammer “disappears” and become unreachable by any possible means.

In pyramidal schemes itis common for the fraudster to ask a relatively small sum of money in the beginning to create a sense of “trust” (100 eur – 200 eur). That sum is paid back with the interests or “gains” from the fictitious profits. At this point the scammer will push the victim toward a much larger investment that will be never repaid.

3 Warning Signs of an Investment Scam 

  • The promise of very High returns VS very Low Risks
  • Very often features “Hot tips”, Insider information
  • Psychological pressure to buy/invest NOW

ONLINE ROMANCE SCAMS

Scammers approach their victims via social media, they create fictitious Facebook, Instagram accounts and fake profiles on various dating sites. Scammers play on the emotional triggers and try to leverage the romantic side of the victims to get from them money or other material gifts, they might try to steal their sensitive personal data as well.

After accepting a friend request, a romantic tone of conversation quickly begins to develop.

The scammer will proceed to build some romantic relationship, citing character similarities and trying to gain your trust. Social manipulation takes place often playing on the feeling of loneliness and benevolence.  They push on their victims the belief that “we are created for each other”. Once trust is established tragic stories emerge in the discourse, various family problems, crisis, accidents. Money is asked at any time under any pretext. The alarm bell should ring when the scammer start asking for money before you have ever met them!

Don’t fall for the scammers!

Don’t believe all the stories, no matter how tragic, touching or appealing.

Romance scammers are masters of manipulation. Have a closer look at their dating profile.

Clues for spotting a fake dating profile

When looking at dating profile note anything unusual about their: PHOTO, LOCATION, INTERESTS, LANGUAGE SKILLS matching their background info.

Romance scammer use fake photos of other people that they have found online : do an image search of your admirer. You can use the reverse image search services offered freely by Google or TinEye and unmask the scam this way.

Ask yourself these questions :

  • Why am I being approached?
  • Is this thing too good or too bad to be true?
  • Do I really know who my online love is?
  • Have I ever met my online love?
  • Have I ever been in a phone or video connection with him?
  • Does he repeatedly ask me for money, citing possible travel expenses, passport purchases, or various dramatic things and other stories?

PHISHING

Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information or data, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by disguising oneself as a trustworthy entity.

Data can be fished by different means : by e-mail, through social media platforms or scam sites (e.g. fake online stores), by mobile phone with different online applications, via text message or via call, pretending to be a company representative, a technician, a police officer or a bank clerk, etc.

The scammer tries to get important data about the victim:

  • Bank codes
  • Credit card numbers
  • Access codes to online portals
  • Personal identity number

In the most common scenario the victim receives a forged email purporting to be from his bank and requesting to verify the credentials, a link is provided in the email that will redirect the victim to a fake website looking like the original one, if the victim type in his credentials those information will be stolen. With these sensitive data criminals seek financial gain at the expense of their victims.

Don’t give your informations to a scammer

  • Do not open unexpected and unsolicited SMS or email links unless you’re absolutely sure who the message is from.
  • Never give out BANK ID codes, passwords, or other credentials over the phone, online or under any circumstance.
  • These info are never asked by the police nor the bank! ONLY SCAMMERS ASK FOR THOSE DATA!
  • If you or a loved one are the victim of phishing and suspect that a scammer has got your bank credentials, notify it to your bank’s customer service immediately and report it to the police. 

JOB OFFER SCAMS

You receive an unsolicited email offering a job, typically not in your area of expertise, often for a mystery shopper or similar position. When you accept, you’re paid by check or money order, for an amount greater than your “employer” offered. You’re then asked to send back the difference, only to discover the original check or money order was fake, and you’re out of the money you sent to your fake employer.

CHARITY FRAUD SCAMS

After a large-scale natural disasters or high-profile public tragedies scammers try to capitalize on the public sentiment. They set up fake donation sites and accounts, and then craft an emotional pitch email to solicit funds that never reach the victims. These scams can be successful because they play on sympathy and goodwill of people!

LOTTERY SCAMS

You receive an email claiming you’ve won a little-known lottery, and always with a huge payout. You may also be asked to pay a small sum to “release” your winnings. You’re asked to send personal details as verification, and suddenly you’re the victim of identity fraud and the money you sent is gone.

BENEFICIARY SCAMS

You get an email from someone who is looking to move some money around quickly. These emails sometimes come from people claiming to be an important businessman or functionary who says he has millions to move out of the country and wants your help in exchange for a cut of the profits.

PC REPAIR SCAMS

A scam that starts in the real world and quickly moves into the online one, you receive a phone call from someone who claims to work for “Microsoft” or another large software company claiming they can fix PC issues like slow Internet speeds. It sounds helpful, and so when the email arrives to your inbox, you download a remote access program, which allows scammers to take control of your computer.

CORONA RELATED SCAMS

Scam messages have been sent on behalf of the WHO World Health Organization.

The messages can purport different aims :

  • They can offer the download of an informative guide, but by downloading the file, you are actually downloading malicious software to your device.
  • Donate to anti-viral work using cryptocurrency Bitcoins
  • Suggest to buy online medical products that do not actually exist and will be never delivered. 

CLUES FOR SPOTTING A FAKE E-MAIL

Scammer are becoming more and more shrewd at forging emails and fake messages, in several languages. It is always important to look for signs of a forgery, such as :

  • Generic Greetings
  • Poor quality of grammar, vocabulary
  • Possible spelling mistakes
  • Imperfect design of graphic elements

IF YOU GET SCAMMED

Remember that you are the victim of a fraud. Don’t be ashamed!

If you have lost money or credit card data. Contact your bank’s customer service immediately and report the scam. If your credit card details have been compromised block the card and ask for a new bank card to be delivered to you.

 Ask for counsel and support with those close to you, don’t be ashamed and discuss your situation with :