4 Clever Internet Scams You Should Be Aware Of

Updated on February 24, 2020
poppyr profile image

Poppy is passionate about helping others avoid falling victim to fraud. She hopes that internet scams will soon become a thing of the past.

The internet has transformed the way we do business, communicate with our friends and family, and handle our money. In such a digital age, it is unfortunately very easy for people to lose their hard-earned money to fraudsters and villains who seek to use the internet to their advantage.

Though people who can fall victim to these scams are commonly older and those with little experience with computers, anyone can be a possible victim. Though most people know to delete spam emails trying to get people's money, there are many other scams out there. Here are four common scams that anyone with an internet connection can come across at any time.

Source

1. The Refund Scam

A common scam involves claiming the victim is owed a refund only to trick them into sending them money. This can either be done by calling the victim directly or by holding a fake website that asks the victim to call.

How it Works

The scammer will say that the victim is owed money, and usually claim to be Microsoft or a similar large computer company. The victim is then asked to connect their computer to the scammer's, often via TeamViewer (note: TeamViewer is a legit service, but you should never let someone you don't know and trust to access your device).

The victim is then asked to log into their online bank account so the victim can receive their "refund." The scammer, using a simple but clever piece of software, either is able to change the numbers on the screen to make it look as though money has been added, or moves money from the victim's savings account to their checking account.

How They Get Your Money

The scammer then claims that a mistake has been made and the victim has to pay back the difference. For example, the "refund" may have been $200, but the scammer "accidentally" put in $2,000. The victim is then asked to pay back the difference ($1,800), either by appealing to the victim's kinder side, acting upset and like they're going to lose their job for their mistake, or by threatening to have the victim arrested for theft.

The scammer will often ask the victim to buy a gift card, such as Google Play or iTunes, and tell them the code to pay them back. Presumably, this is because a gift card is much more difficult to trace than a regular bank transfer. The victim is then asked to go to a store to purchase cards worth the "refund" difference amount. Once the victim has told the scammer the code and it is redeemed, the scam is complete and the victim is out hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars.

How to Know It's a Scam

If a company owed you a refund, it is likely they would send a letter or an email and the refund would be sent via bank transfer. A legitimate company would never ask you to log into your online bank or use gift cards as payment.

Never purchase a Google Play, iTunes, or any other type of gift card for anyone other than yourself or close friends and family.

2. The IRS Scam

This is one of the more frightening scams that fools people in the USA every single day. The scammer calls claiming the victim owes the IRS thousands of dollars.

How it Works

Since this scam involves fewer steps than others, it is a favorite of many criminals to trick people out of their hard-earned money. The scammer calls the victim saying that there has been a claim made against them because of incorrectly filed tax forms. Some may even say there's a warrant out for the victim's arrest and if they don't cooperate they'll send the police to their home.

This is all nonsense, of course. The scammer only has the victim's phone number, not their name or location. However, it can be scary when a scammer has this hanging over the victim's head.

How They Get Your Money

Again, they are asked to go to a nearby store and purchase a gift card, usually of several hundred dollars to "cancel the warrant." Unfortunately, scammers can get extremely aggressive and many victims end up in tears.

How to Know It's a Scam

The IRS never calls to ask for gift cards to cancel arrest warrants. If you're worried about your tax situation, it's best to call the IRS directly.

3. The Virus Scam

Another common scam is with a clever bit of software that can throw people who are not computer-savvy a curveball and trick them into thinking they're paying for legitimate firewalls. The victim might get a popup on their computer screen saying that they need to call a certain number, though there are other ways this scam can work, too.

How it Works

The scammer will gain access to the victim's computer and use regular software to show that the victim has many "hackers" trying to gain access to their account. They claim to be able to protect your computer from viruses and hackers if you purchase a package from them (generally costing a couple of hundred dollars) for them to "clean up" your computer.

How They Get Your Money

This one is trickier to recognize because they often accept bank transfers rather than asking for gift cards. The idea is to make the victim think they've paid for a legitimate service.

How to Know It's a Scam

A legitimate software company won't ask for access to your computer. It's always best to research the name of the company the caller claims to be and see how they usually operate.

Never let someone who you don't completely trust gain access to your computer.

Source

These aren't the only types of scams out there, but they are common ones that you and everyone you know should be aware of. Here are some more ways to know if the call you're getting is a scam.

  • The caller gets angry
  • They call you names, swear at you, or yell
  • They ask you to purchase gift cards to make payments
  • They order you not to accept or make any other phone calls
  • They make threats (for example, saying they're sending the police to your home if you don't cooperate)

4. The Romance Scam

This scam is much more long-term and often targets middle-aged single women, though men can fall victim, too.

How it Works

The scammer, usually operating alone, approaches women on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and starts a relationship with her. This is via weeks or even months of daily chatting, compliments, and attempting to steal the victim's heart.

How They Get Your Money

The aim is to get the victim to send them money voluntarily via bank transfer or PayPal, often by telling lies about not being able to pay bills, to pay for a family member's hospitalization, or for flights to visit the victim. Though this scam can come in many forms, there are some typical tropes of the romance scam character.

  • He's in the army. The scammer will claim to be in the US military, currently stationed in a warzone.
  • They'll claim they aren't allowed to make video calls, but they'll send a lot of pictures.
  • They have a tragic backstory, often a deceased spouse, and one or two children who they claim to raise on their own.
  • They're quick to say that they're looking for a relationship.

How to Know It's a Scam

I've personally encountered people like this on Twitter! Here are some hints that it's a scam.

  • They claim to be a native English speaker, but there's something off to their grammar and spelling. An honest person wouldn't see the need to lie about their language or country of origin.
  • They're very romantic very quickly.
  • They ask for money.

Unfortunately, many people have fallen victim to this kind of scam, breaking their hearts as well as their wallets. Social media can be fun and useful, but unfortunately it's a haven for thieves.

Never send money to people you don't know.

People Are Fighting Back!

As awareness of scams is increasing, some people are taking it into their own hands to ruin as many scammers' plans as possible. If you enjoy watching YouTube, there are several channels that aim to spread awareness of these types of scams and also to fight back.

  • Kitboga is a young man who acts as different characters and aims to waste as much of the scammers' time as possible. It's entertaining but frightening seeing what length scammers will go to get your money.
  • ScammerRevolts takes it one step further and adds System Keys to the scammer's computer (locking them out of their device) or deletes all their files. It's incredibly fun watching him punish these criminals.
  • Jim Browning aims to spread awareness of different kinds of scams and helps others avoid being taken advantage of.

Below is an incredible video by Jim Browning about how he and his friend shut down one of the many scam call centers in India.

How Do I and My Loved Ones Avoid Being Scammed?

The best thing you can do to make sure you and anyone you know doesn't fall victim to fraud is by educating as many people as you can about these scams. Make it a golden rule never to give out personal information, never let people you don't 100% know and trust to access your computer, and hang up immediately if the caller makes threats, shouts or swears at you, or asks for a gift card as payment.

It's worth knowing that many victims of these scams are elderly people. It's particularly important to raise awareness to them so they don't lose their savings and retirement funds. Being scammed is a terrible experience and many lives have been ruined by it.

Let's raise awareness about these scams and work on shutting down all call centers. If they don't make any money, these sorts of crimes will disappear.

© 2020 Poppy

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    • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

      Poppy 

      5 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thank you so much, Margaret!

    • Margaret Pan profile image

      Margaret Pan 

      5 weeks ago from Athens

      Poppy, very helpful article! Thank you for writing this!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 

      5 weeks ago from UpstateWestern,New York

      You GO, Girl!! I'm with you! More power to ya!

    • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

      Poppy 

      5 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thanks, Paula! Unfortunately, many people still fall for these scams. They're thinking up new ones every day. I hope to add to this article and help put these horrid call centers out of business.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 

      5 weeks ago from UpstateWestern,New York

      Scams and fraudsters!!! Arghhhhhhhhh! Disgusting, nasty people! I'm on to them! There are too many of them, not very "good" at what they're doing & too many copy-cats! They try every scam in the book. The sad part is that they DO manage to hook a few people.

      I have received at least one, a few, repeatedly....of every kind! I dump them quickly but they can be very persistent.....besides STUPID.

      Thanks for the public service article, poppy! We need to watch out for each other! Peace, Paula

    • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

      Poppy 

      5 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thanks, Linda. I'm glad people are becoming more aware.

    • Linda Courtney profile image

      Linda Courtney 

      5 weeks ago from Bloomsburg, PA

      Thanks for the information. I've had all these type of scams come at me and thankfully knew not to go for it.

    • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

      Poppy 

      5 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Hi, Donna. Thank you for your comment! Yes, the romance scam is particularly awful because it leaves victim with a broken heart as well as a broken bank.

    • Donna-Rayne profile image

      Donna Rayne 

      5 weeks ago from Sutter Creek

      Thank you for such a helpful article. Some women that I have seen on a t.v. program fell for the lover's scam and it was horrible! Thank you for sharing this!

      Blessings,

      Donna Rayne

    • poppyr profile imageAUTHOR

      Poppy 

      5 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thanks, Liz. I’ll add any more scams that I find on this list. I really hope one day we can help eradicate these scammers’ livelihood and get call centers closed down.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      5 weeks ago from UK

      This is a very helpful article. Sadly too many people fall prey to scammers every day. In the UK we have also had cases of fake emails from the tax office. Recently I have put the phone down on several recorded message, unsolicited phone calls, as I suspect that they were scams.

      Sadly scammers are becoming increasingly devious. For every scam that is discovered and publicised, a few more pop up in its place. Your article helps in the awareness battle, which is key to beating the scammers.

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