Online Scams Are Becoming More Sophisticated, Heres How To Spot Them

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Online scams are on the rise and they are becoming more sophisticated. But not all is doom and gloom, by educating yourself, your friends and your family about the risks you can reduce the likelihood of falling for scams yourself; and help your family and friends do the same themselves.

Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are also often known as email scams where scammers send emails including links that when clicked download malware on the victim's device. Scammers attempt to deceive people into clicking these links on emails by pretending to be someone of authority or somebody they know. For example, you could get a message from a scammer pretending to be your child or work colleague saying that they have gotten themselves into trouble and need you to send them money, to get them out of the sticky situation that they are in. They will also probably ask you to send over the funds by sending them gift cards or by sending cryptocurrency so that the transaction is untraceable. If you are duped into sending money over you will never see it again unless you contact your bank or fraud recovery professionals, who will be able to increase the chances of getting your money back. 

To avoid phishing scams you should be cautious about the emails you receive, if you receive an email from somebody you know asking for you to send them money or personal details it is worth giving them a call to make sure it is them that sent you that message. If it wasn’t you know not to send that money over and you can report this scam attempt to the authorities who may be able to take action against the scammer who tried to pull the wool over your eyes. 

You should also be mindful of the actual email addresses themselves, is the email you received from your known contact an email address that they have used before in previous correspondence between the two of you; or is this the first time they have contacted you using this email? In the latter case, it could mean that the email is actually from a scammer. Another way to spot a scam email is to look at the spelling and grammar within the email, and think to yourself, would the person normally make spelling and grammar mistakes? Many scam emails often contain spelling errors and grammatical errors because it is common for scammers to be from and live in a different country than you, where English is likely not their first language. This increases the likelihood of errors in the emails you will receive from scammers.

Phishing Scams Are Becoming More Sophisticated

Spear Phishing is the latest evolution of phishing, this is where scammers target specific individuals or organisations through phishing emails. This often requires the scammers to engage in extensive research of their target to find out as much information as they can. They take a deep dive into all of the social media accounts that the target owns and soak up useful information about their targets, along with their real-world professional and personal contacts. This information is used by the scammers to allow them to formulate phishing emails that are tailored to the individual or organisation, based on their circumstances. If they spot a weakness such as a wealthy individual looking for business partners online scammers will use this opportunity to pose as interested business partners in the hopes that they will gain the trust of the individual and be sent personal and financial information that they can use to get a tighter grip over the individual and trick them into sending money over.  

Scammers will make their ruses more convincing by creating realistic-looking social media accounts that they regularly update to mimic an actual person. This can make their overall persona more convincing and mean that they are more likely to successfully scam people. Before you send money over to someone you have never met before it is always advisable to meet them in person, or if this is not logistically possible you should at least have a video call with them to assess if they seem trustworthy or not.

Romance Scams

Romance scams are where a scammer engages in a digital romantic relationship with their victim, they engage in a tactic called love bombing. Which is an attempt to influence a person's emotions with over-the-top displays of attention and affection. This can cause victims to become fascinated with the character the scammer is portraying quickly, the scammer will take any opportunity to get the victim to send them money. Often the scammer says they are living in a foreign country, which they often are; they use this premise to say that they would like to come to visit the victim but unfortunately, they don’t have enough money to make the journey. This is an attempt to get the victim to cough up the money so that they can meet the person they have been texting for weeks or even months at this point. During this, they have likely developed strong romantic feelings for the person they are chatting with, increasing their agreeability to pay up if it meant that they would see their romantic online flame.  

However, all that happens when you send money to a romance scammer is that you will be waiting at the airport for a very long time to no avail, they will block you on every messaging app you have exchanged messages on whilst they count your money. In particularly tragic cases people have proposed to their online scammer, whom they have never met. The scammer can extort even more money from the hapless victim.  

When you are speaking to anybody online that you have never met you should always be cautious about their true intentions, even if they are not out to scam you financially they may not be the person they claim to be. You may think you are speaking to a woman called Sarah who is 33 but they are a 50-year-old man called Steve. You should meet in person with the person you are talking to online as soon as possible, to ensure that they are who they say they are and you are compatible in person with them. If they persistently refuse to meet with you or come up with obviously fake excuses you should look elsewhere for a romantic partner, as they are not as interested in you as they claim and they may also be a romance scammer. 

Conclusion

It is good practice to every once in a while research about various scams out there so that you can keep vigilant about the various scams out there and avoid falling for them yourself. 

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