Digital marketing

Online scams: Are you in danger of being dot conned?

- July 31, 2006 3 MIN READ

As a solo business owner, you can’t walk over to the next cubicle and ask your colleague what they think of the email you just received. So how do you make sure you don’t fall for online scams?

It is important to maintain a healthy degree of skepticism when confronted with information, whether it is from a national newspaper or the Encyclopedia Britannica.

This is especially true in the online world, although it seems a number of people still have trouble deciding what is real and what is false when surfing the Internet.

Here are the three biggest online scams on the Internet today.

1. Auction fraud

You win an item from an online auction site, pay the money, and then never receive the product. Easily the most common online fraud on the Internet, and one that is easy to fall victim to.

You can help to avoid this one by:

  • Reviewing feedback comments (the negative and the positive)
  • Look for a feedback score higher than 20.
  • Don’t try and buy a $1,000 Gucci bag for $50.

While adhering to these steps is no guarantee that you will come out unscathed, your chances greatly improve each time you take the time to stop and think.

2. Phishing

This kind does not involve Rex Hunt and a scared looking trout.

This kind of phishing is an attempt to steal your identity by masquerading as a trusted source (i.e. your bank). It usually arrives in the form of an email, requesting you to change your password or login to your account. The link you are asked to follow is to a webpage setup to capture private details, such as your password or credit card number. The next time you log in to your account, the balance reads $0.

Here is a really easy guide to use when evaluating emails. I like to call it “Handsaker’s Law”.

All requests to update your account, check your security settings and change your password are bull.

Like thermodynamics and gravity before it, Handsaker’s Law is an immutable law of the Universe that we live in. Follow it or end up broke.

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3: Foreign politicians transferring money

Ever received an email asking you to “assist me in moving large amounts of money out of the country, and I will give you 25%”?

Often originating from Nigeria, these emails have now hit third position for the most common frauds on the net. Despite the wide spread press coverage this scam has received in the past, people still fall for it.

Trust me – there is no money (except for the cash that greedy victims happily wire off to some foreign bank account).

So how do you avoid being ripped off through online scams? Try these tips, aimed at avoiding losing money to scammers and fraudsters.

  • No company will ever email you to ask you to change your personal information, including passwords and addresses (remember Handsaker’s Law?). Delete any requests you receive in your inbox.
  • You cannot win a competition that you didn’t enter in the first place. You have not won the Spanish Lottery, and no-one is going to send you an iPod for getting five of your friends to fill out an online form.
  • People who work for multi-national companies are generally capable of composing grammatically correct emails. If you receive an email from Microsoft that sounds like it was written by a 12 year old boy from Guatemala, then it probably was. Either that or Bill’s been on the sauce again.
  • There is no reliable way of tracking an email as it is sent and forwarded around the globe. AOL will not send $1 to the Red Cross for every person that you forward their email on to.
  • Chain letters are bogus, and sending them to me is a sure fire way to get off my Xmas card list. There may very well be a sick child in Armenia who needs my help, but he probably didn’t send me an email.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Have you seen any online scams that people need to know about? Let people know about your experience in the comments field below.

Authors note: I shamefully admit to being conned out of $50 while working in my parents’ shop as a teenager. It was a simple scam, but it got me. Since then I have become the worlds biggest skeptic, including asking to see birth certificates at family reunions.