There are hundreds of scams on the Internet today. While some are entirely plausible, others are so farfetched they make you laugh. Yet, for the, ahem—gullible, these can be costly and dangerous. Here are five classic viral scams that have tricked many people over the years:
A wealthy Nigerian needs your help to move millions of dollars from accounts out of his country. In return for your help, you will receive a percentage of the money. You send your bank account info, and at some point a small problem will arise and the Nigerian will need you to send a few thousand dollars to fix the problem. The real problem is not seeing this cash ever again. This is known as the Nigerian Scam. There are many variations of this scam, originating from other locales.
A friend is stranded overseas and needs you to send them money. If a hacker compromises an email or Facebook account, he/she can then access the address books and friend lists. Inbox messages appear as a desperate plea from your “friend” claiming they are traveling overseas, have been mugged on a deserted island and lost everything- including their chapstick. They plead with you to send money immediately. Come to find out, your real friend is safe and sound. This hoax is especially tricky because it looks like it came from someone you know, not a stranger. These could arguably be the worst scams because they are coming from a known sender.
Online rental properties are another target for scammers. Con artists use real listings, changing the contact information. When they ask the victim for the deposit check, the scammer will say that they are out of the country on business or doing volunteer work, so the money needs to be sent overseas. Once discovered, it is very difficult to track down the scammer or your money.
Online dating scams are particularly cruel. Con artists use the sites to look for victims. If they do everything right, the victim becomes love struck. Cons take their time, reeling in the victim over weeks or months. Then comes the request; money for a small emergency that can be fixed with a few hundred dollars. After the victim sends the money suddenly another emergency arises. People have lost everything to this con, so be careful. Victims can lose not only their money, but their hearts as well.
You receive an email or a phone message from a bank that says your PIN or other information has been compromised or needs to be updated. You are supposed to respond, giving them certain information. Never do this! The senders are phishing for information which they will then use to try to steal your identity and money. Banks do not send messages asking for information. If you have any questions, contact your bank directly. (Be sure not to use the links or phone numbers provided in emails.)