How do you spot the most common internet scams?Nico van den Dries
Scammers have a crucial factor that works for them, besides of course the dire state of our economic system, and that is the lack of a unified, comprehensive, national approach by the police that also varies from country to country.
It is extremely difficult to track down and bring these scammers – also known as scammers – to justice. Often also because most people are eventually scammed for a relatively small sum of money. Of course our service as a cybercrime investigation may help you. But which scams are most common right now?
Bank, help desk or 'child question' internet scam
A number of consumers have lost thousands of euros to this scam, but a regular victim is being scammed for between 250 and 1,000 euros. That's a lot of money, but for a family in need it's really a lot. And of course there is also the shame that comes into play.
The trick works the same in all cases and the goal is simply that you provide data to transfer money via your bank or credit card. People are often called, e-mailed or texted by someone who pretends to be your bank, the Microsoft helpdesk or even very cheeky as your own child.
Always remember one thing and that is that a bank or helpdesk will never just call you – often you have to call them to get something done. Lately you have probably received an app from an unknown number pretending to be your son or daughter who is always having a hard time and asking for money.
Incorrect grammar and a few misspelled words are also telltale signs that something isn't real at all. Asking for money or information about your login details is often the subject of discussion. Never send a bank card to an address because the person on the phone said it was blocked.
The 'Money Loan – Solve Debt' Internet Scam
The long recession, corona and its aftermath have created an environment in which internet debt reduction and debt relief scams thrive. With millions in money trouble, being in debt is a bigger problem than ever. In fact, the government's solution called BKR has become the biggest problem ever without them even knowing it.
Everyone is registered there with a notification and because of this you can forget about the help of really good credit companies and the banks. In this way you become sensitive and driven into the hands of internet scammers and loan sharks.
Paying back existing multi-debt with 1 debt is a common maneuver of companies that offer this type of service. You are often tied to a very high interest rate so that you never get rid of the debt. Additional services such as a budget coach or financial manager offer to talk to your creditors to arrange a refund for what you actually owe. In many of these cases, just getting your payments is all that matters and not really reducing your debt.
It's no secret that financial budget managers sell themselves as legitimate companies with the apparent power to help consumers overwhelmed by debt. After making large payments to these debt management companies, often amounting to thousands of dollars, many consumers find themselves more deeply in debt than before.
Go to your local council and try to get a proper – that's free – spending budget that will help you better pay your bills and pay off your debts is nevertheless the most economical way to get debt relief. Negotiating higher terms or lower payments and refinancing car or home loans are actions you can take yourself.
Lottery won or a mega legacy internet scam
Scammers—oddly often based in the Netherlands, Canada and the Federal Republic of Nigeria—use the telephone, the Internet and direct mail to entice global consumers to buy opportunities in high-stakes foreign lotteries.
There are many different types of lottery scams:
- A lottery notifies you (email, mail or telephone) that you have won, or
- You have to go to a lottery site, or by phone or mail to get/buy a lottery ticket, or
- You buy a "program" of "secrets" about how to win.
- You have won a lottery but you still have to pay a tax, delivery fee or administration fee
Remember that no legitimate lottery will ever spontaneously inform you that you have won. That's not how they work! In other words, if you didn't buy a ticket, you could NOT win a lottery – no matter what anyone tells you!
Here are the main tips:
- You cannot win a legitimate lottery if you do not participate.
- In almost all cases, you have to buy a ticket to enter a legitimate draw.
- You never have to pay to receive winnings from a legal lottery. You pay tax after winning.
- If you have a winning ticket, you often have to take action yourself to collect.
- If it's not run by a government or government-authorized organization, it can't be a legal lottery
The same actually works with inheritances that you supposedly have to receive from a distant cousin or aunt. You are told that you have been given an inheritance. Be aware of the associated warning signs:
- The info indicates that you will receive an inheritance - but you do not know the full name of the person who died.
- The email may have been addressed to you personally, but it's otherwise quite common – thousands of other people around the world may have received the exact same notification.
- You are often asked for money in advance to release your 'legacy'.
- The 'notary' charges a fee in advance (for administration or “processing”).
- You will be asked to provide your bank account, credit card information or additional confidential information.
- You will be told to answer right away or else the money will be given to someone else.
- To get your inheritance, you may have to travel abroad at your own expense to get it.
It's very simple what to do when you get decent notifications:
- Do not respond to the emails, block numbers and hang up the phone.
- NEVER pay cash in advance to collect a prize.
- Do not reveal your full identity.
- Do not disclose any financial or personal information, such as your bank account number or credit card information.
Scareware internet scam
You may already know about phishing (which sends you an email that leads to a replica of a banking site, where you enter your social security number and account numbers), but now there is fishing (the same only through VOIP based phones with a computer voice or sometimes even a real person) and smishing (using app, texting and mobile calling to redirect you to a fake website again).
Then we also have scareware – virus protection scams that usually flash alerts on our PC screens, either claiming that your computer/phone has a virus or offering a “free” scan to see if you are infected.
You will then be invited to license a downloadable platform with a real-sounding name, sometimes similar to established, bona fide software. The price is usually around 40 euros, but the platform does not work. It can even be malware or stalkerware install or worse ransomware – platforms that make some of your data inaccessible until you pay a ransom. Lately, we've seen scareware links embedded in video comments on YouTube and in "tweets" on Twitter.
So how can you protect yourself from scareware? Here are a few crucial tips:
- Never click on a pop-up that claims your PC is infected or offers a free scan. They are almost all scams. Period of time.
- The most important thing is that you install legitimate internet security software such as Symantec, McAfee, Trend, AVG or Kaspersky.
- Scanning your device for this software by a professional would likewise remove any scam platforms that have already made their way onto your computer or phone.
In short, also with these types of scams – use common sense.