It’s no secret that the Internet has, unfortunately, created a “golden age” of scamming. Those of us old enough to remember can look fondly back at the Nigerian Prince scam, for example.
To get techie on you, that scam is called an “advance fee” scam, in which you are solicited by a “sad Nigerian prince” who has “inherited a bunch of money” and needs you to wire him a little “seed money” in advance, so he can recoup his money and pay you back 10x or more for your trouble. Anyone who has ever advertised a boat or car on Craigslist has probably received a variation on this scam, in which a buyer (usually in another state or country) offers to “overpay” you for your boat or car, and you agree to rebate him some money. Scam alert: don’t do it. (If you want to dive into the psychology of how scams work, I recommend you read this article on Wikipedia; in addition, Wikipedia has an excellent overview to Internet scams, here.).
There are so many scams going around these days, that I thought a quick “cheat sheet” of where you as a user can go to find out about the latest scams, and thereby be aware in advance, would be a great blog post. So here goes.
Resources to Identify the Latest Scams
Snopes.com. This is a mega site about all things gossip on the Internet. It’s not only about scams but also a fact-checking site about rumors running around the ‘Net. Check out their hot 25 for example to see the latest buzz around the Internet that, in their opinion, is pretty much fake.
Scamguard. This site collects and analyzes scams, frauds, and complaints. It’s a bit “consumer driven” so it attempts to “crowdsource” the latest scams. Don’t miss their list of scams as it’s pretty up-to-date on the latest craziness in the scam department.
FTC Consumer Information. This is the Federal Trade Commission’s scam central. Let’s face it the government is clunky, slow, and not very good at keeping up with the Internet. So it’s not the best place to stay up-to-date, but it is a central government resource on potential scams, and worth checking out if you think something is a scam. They’re especially sensitive to scams that involve people pretending to be from the IRS, as explained, here. Also, there’s a government mega site on scams, here, which is separate from the FTC site. And there’s the IRS scam site, here.
Stopscam.US. This is another collector site that aggregates scams into one easy-to-read list. Another good one is an up-to-date list at The Balance, here. If you like watching videos, here’s a list from TopTenz.net, here.
Some Basics about Fraud and Scams Online
Finally, some basics to helping keep yourself aware of frauds and scams online. First, be skeptical! If it’s “too good to be true,” it probably is. If some nice man calls you on the phone “pretending” to be a pro-active security service from Microsoft, then it’s probably a fake. C’mon. Do you think that big, dumb, clunky Microsoft is pro-actively calling us to help keep our computers safe, for free? Or that someone really wants to buy your $3000 boat for $5000? If it’s too good to be true, it probably is! Second, don’t click on links in emails or go to weird websites. Third, be very, very wary of giving out important personal information such as your date of birth, social security number, bank account information or credit card information. If someone is asking for this, then think twice about who they are, and why they want it! Fourth, make sure to run virus scans on your computer, and security checkups on Google, Facebook, your iPhone, etc. Stay up-to-date with the latest software patches and anti-virus programs. Just as you wouldn’t walk down the street in New York City with your “guard down,” think of the Internet as a big “New York City.” It’s full of fun, amazing, cool places to visit but it’s also full of hucksters and thieves. Stay safe!