Consumer Safety: Frauds to Look Out For in 2017
Dealspotr posted this article
2016 was a remarkable year for cybercrime and online fraud. And as we look ahead at 2017, we can notice a few new trends emerging along with some previous trends that gained full momentum. What will the future bring us, what scams we can expect in 2017, how to protect ourselves from online frauds and what to do if we get scammed are just some of the things we will cover in this extensive guide.
Online frauds have become the world’s most prevalent crime. In fact, today you are 20 times more likely to get robbed online than in the street. Simply put, all internet users are at risk of getting scammed and it seems that we have never faced greater threats. Therefore, in 2017, it will be critical to protect ourselves from online frauds and avoid being the victim.
To help you do that, we will share with you the most common online scams and give you powerful knowledge so that you can recognize a fraud from a mile away.
But first, let’s see what we can expect in 2017.
Social media attack will be more common
With the growth of social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) comes the increase of attacks on social media users. Scammers will try to use social media for identity theft and reconnaissance. They will try to breach accounts by stealing users’ login credentials and their personal information. Therefore, we can expect that social media channels will invest a lot of time and effort in fraud detection tools that will prove users’ online identity.
The best way to protect yourself from social media scams is to have a strong password, two-factor authentication and an up-to-date antivirus software.
Scammers will target consumer devices
The tech scam that encrypts personal date and demands payment to release it to the owner will reach its peak by mid-2017. The so-called ransomware is a recognized problem when criminals hack into your system and demand money in order to give you back the access of the device. For example, we can expect that scammers will hack smart TVs and the owner will have to pay a fee to unlock it. It’s even possible that the hackers will target cloud infrastructure, which can cause serious problems.
To protect yourself from ransomware and similar breaches, make sure to use a secure malware protection such as McAfee Internet Security and regularly back up your date offline.
Mobile attacks will become more malicious and sophisticated
We can all agree that the mobile industry is blooming. However, with the increase of mobile popularity and a broader range of things people do via their mobile (paying bills, online shopping, using social media accounts, etc.), hackers will become more interested in the mobile industry and will start targeting app data, text and call history, camera and more.
The easiest way for hacking into your mobile phone is through a public WiFi, so never send or receive sensitive data, including billing and personal or account information when you are not using your private WiFi.
There will be more fake apps
Speaking of mobile scams, we can also expect a rise of fake apps that will be created with only one purpose – to hack into your mobile device. Fake phone apps are being constantly created with similar names to well-known brands in an attempt to trick the consumers. These apps can steal your bank or credit card information or install malware on the device and demand money from you to unlock it.
With that being said, before downloading anything make sure to look closely at the app's available information (the focus should be on the name itself) and do your own research on Google and read the reviews of other users.
Fraudulent phone calls will be more popular
In 2017, fraudulent phone calls will reach its peak, as they are an easy way of scamming people and don’t require any tech knowledge. The scammers will pretend to be someone else, like the IRS employee, and will ask for your credit card information and social security number. We can also expect that scammers will make up a completely new phone scam and request payments over the phone.
Therefore, you should always check whether you are talking to a legitimate employee and refuse to give your sensitive information over the phone. If you believe it’s crucial that you share your credit card information with that person, then simply hang up and call the company they work for to make sure it’s not a scam. In the end, no one can force you to give your personal information over the phone, so simply don’t do it.
Fraudsters will become more sophisticated, smarter and bolder
Like any industry, the growth of online scams has had its trial and errors. The odds were always in scammer's favor as they only need to be right 1% of the time. A few years ago, scammers could get away with stealing thousands of dollars with just a stolen credit card. Today, fraud prevention solution provide advanced prevention and detection methods that force scammers to not only steal credit card numbers, but also address and personally identifying information to bypass merchant defenses.
In 2017, hackers will become more organized and commercialized and will base their centers in countries where cybercrime is barely regarded as a crime. Their ability to write bespoke target codes will improve faster than defenders’ ability to counter or get ahead of it. We can also expect new apps, software and more realistic and sophisticated scams that will target everyone.
Law enforcement will continue to fall short
We can all agree that state and federal lawmakers haven’t been useful in aiding law enforcement to catch online fraudsters. Unfortunately, this won’t change in 2017. Cybercriminal won’t receive the attention it deserves and the police won’t be effective at catching online scammers.
In order to effectively battle online fraudsters, the governments from all countries will have to come up with a law that will enable law enforcements to work together and catch fraudsters who can live anywhere in the world. And even though we are miles away from this law, cybercriminal is rising and becoming serious and lawmakers will not be able to ignore it much longer.
Frauds to Look Out For in 2017
Fraudsters are inventing new scams on a daily basis, so no one can list all current scams you’ll find online. However, we've managed to create an extensive list of the most common scams you should look out for in 2017.
These scams offer a false promise of some kind of inheritance to trick you into paying a fee or sharing your credit card information. A scammer will usually contact you out of the blue via email, text message or social networking message and claim that you have a large inheritance from a wealthy benefactor or some distant relative (who actually doesn't exist).
In most cases, the scammer will pretend to be a foreign official, banker or a lawyer and claim that you are legally entitled to claim the inheritance of your distant relative or that a rich person died without a will and you can inherit everything through some trick as you share the last name (or something like that).
You will be told that there are some bank or government restrictions and that there is a fee you need to pay to claim the money. In addition, the scammer may ask for your personal details as well.
If the person hesitates to provide the information, the scammer will send a number of “legitimate” documents for signing and maybe even invite you to personally examine documents.
Sometimes the scammer creates 3-4 fake accounts and poses as a lawyer, banker or a tax agent. Once the person pays the fee, the scammer will disappear and you won’t hear from him ever again. And in case you gave your personal information, you will be also vulnerable to identity theft.
Nigerian scams are famous for offering a large share of money if you “help” transfer it out of their country. You’ll receive a very detailed fake story about millions of dollars “trapped” in some central bank or a large inheritance that can’t be easily accessed due to taxes or some government restrictions in the country.
The first wave of these scams came from Nigerian and involved a section of their criminal code (419) that outlaws the practice. Therefore, they are usually called “Nigerian 419” scams.
The scammer will probably ask for your credit card information or bank account details to “help them transfer a large sum of money”. In the reality, they will use the provided information and steal your funds.
Alternatively, scammers can ask that you pay for taxes, charges or fees to help transfer the money out of the country through your bank account. At the beginning, the fees will probably be small amounts, but the scammer will keep making up new fees and will continue to do so until a person figures out that this is just a scam.
Reclaim scams are famous for trying to convince you that you are entitled to a reimbursement or a rebate from some trusted organization, a bank or even the government. The reimbursement will be something like bank fees, overpaid taxes or some made up compensation.
Scammers will usually pretend to be from a trusted organization, a bank or the government and will ask you for an administration fee required to claim your money.
Up-Front Payment Scams
These scammers ask you to send an up-front payment in order to receive a special reward like a pre-approved loan, heavily discounted holiday or a prize.
- Reclaim scams – you’ll be entitled to a rebate or a reimbursement once you pay a fee
- Inheritance scams – you’ll inherit a huge amount of money, but will first have to pay a fee
- Lottery and prize scams – you’ll win some prize, but need to pay a fee to receive it
- Travel prize scams – you’ll receive a free or a heavily discounted holiday, but you’ll first have to purchase the “travel voucher”
- Rental scams – you’ll be able to rent an amazing property for a ridiculously low amount of money once you pay the booking fee
In all cases, the scammer will offer amazing conditions but will always ask for an up-front payment. If you decide to pay, the scammer will probably ask for more money and will keep doing so until you figure out what’s happening.
Lottery & Prize Scams
Unexpected lottery or prize scams ask for a fee in order to claim the lottery or any other prize from a competition you have never entered. The scammer will inform you about your amazing prize that could be anything from money to free electronic equipment or even a holiday. If it’s a lottery scam, you’ll probably get a name of some legitimate overseas lotteries so that the scam looks real once you do some superficial research.
Regardless of the type of the scam, to claim your reward you’ll have to pay a fee, which will probably be for courier charges, bank fees, government taxes or insurance costs. The scammer will keep making up all kinds of fees to get the most money out of you.
Alternatively, scammers may ask you to dial a number (starting with 190) on which they receive a premium rate and will try to keep you on the line as long as possible to receive more money. They can even ask you to call another premium rate number.
In addition, scammers can ask for your personal details to have a proof of your identity so that you can receive the prize. In some cases, the scammer will even send a fake check for part of your winnings in order to trick you into believing that everything is legitimate. Once they convince you, they’ll ask for more money to pay all kinds of fees. And of course, their check will bounce and you won’t receive a thing.
Travel Prize Scams
Travel prize scams attempt to trick you into paying some fake fee to claim a “reward” like a free holiday trip. These scams usually start after you sign up to receive information about holiday trips that peak your interest.
Within the same day you can expect to receive a notification by email, text of phone informing you that you have won some special voucher for a free holiday, often worth several thousand dollars. The holiday destination can be anything from exotic places like Pacific Islands, Bali and Thailand to relaxing holiday in the hot Bahamas or Florida.
However, when it’s time to claim the prize you’ll be told that you first have to purchase more travel vouchers. Apart from money for additional travel vouchers, the scammers will usually ask for your credit card information and use it to steal money from your bank account.
When you receive a notification about winning a prize from scratchie cards, chances are it’s a scam. And even though there are legitimate lottery competitions with scratchie cards, most of them are fake.
The easiest way to determine whether it’s real or not is to see what the potential scammer asks from you. If you need to pay an up-front fee or give your personal information (especially bank and credit card information), then it’s definitely a scam.
Unfortunately, nothing is sacred for scammers and they will even try to earn money by doing charity scams. The scammer will impersonate a genuine charity and try to take advantage of your compassion and generosity by asking for a contribution for people in need.
The worst thing about these scams is that they divert genuine and much-needed donation away from people in need and create skepticism in generous people who sometimes refuse to help believing it’s a scam.
Fake charity scams often try to exploit some real natural disaster like earthquake, cyclone and flood. The scammers pretend to be agents of some legitimate and usually well-known charity or even create their own fake charity name. They usually play on the emotions, claiming that children need medication, food and basic stuff to survive. Some scammers even set up a fake website, create fake profiles of people that need help and try to scam as many people as possible.
With all of this being said, here at Dealspotr, we strongly suggest doing a thorough research and figuring out whether the charity is real or not. In most cases, we would always advise you to simply ignore all call to actions, but here we simply have to make an exception as there is always a chance that it’s actually a real charity and that someone desperately needs our help. After all, sometimes our small donation can save someone else’s life, so always help when you can.
Finding romance or even love online happens every single day. However, dating websites, social media and apps are full of scammers who are prepared to play on emotional triggers and take advantage of the victim when they are vulnerable the most.
Most dating scams take place through dating websites and social media, but email and even telephone may be used as a first introduction. These scams are popularly known as “catfishing” and they are so widely spread that MTV has a TV Show Catfish dedicated to people who usually get “catfished” by a person they've been talking to for months or even years.
In most cases, the scammer will create a fake profile on popular social media channel like Facebook or Instagram and try to lure the victims. They will surely use a picture of a beautiful man/woman and a fake name and information. Once you begin chatting, they will soon express emotions and will try to convince you to take the communication away from the website to a more personal way of communication – your phone.
They will do their best to get to know you and gain your trust and will often shower you with loving words and make up some personal stories that they didn't tell anyone. Most scammers will claim that their camera isn't working so they’ll talk with you on the phone and send messages.
Once they gain your trust, scammers will subtly ask for money or your credit card information. They will often make up stories of some kind of a personal emergency like an expensive operation that they can’t afford. Some scammers ask for money in order to purchase a ticket and visit the victim.
We don’t exactly know what the scammer will try to do, but nevertheless, you now know the pattern and can easily avoid being scammed or getting your heart broken.
The scammer will contact the seller and make a generous offer and then send a check as payment – the check will be for a significantly greater amount than previously agreed. Before the check gets cleared by the bank, the scammer will contact the seller and make some fake excuse for the overpayment and ask for the refund of the excess amount.
Of course, there is no such thing as the excess amount because the check is fake and it will bounce. In case the seller decides to refund the excess amount, he/she will lose money. Apart from them, any item that has been sent won’t be retrieved as well.
Remote Access Scams
Remote access scams quickly became of one the most popular online frauds and will definitely pose a threat in 2017 as well. The scammers pretend to work for a large computer telecommunication company and claim that you have internet or a computer problem (like a virus or an error) and need to buy software to fix the problem.
Ironically, they may even claim that your computer has been hacked and request a remote access to your computer to fix the problem. In addition, most scammers will also ask for your credit card information. They will usually seem very knowledgeable and professional and may become abusive if you refuse to cooperate.
False Billing Scams
In 2016, we've seen a rise of the false billing scams and we can expect the same in 2017 as well. These scams revolve around fake invoices for pretty much anything – domain name renewal, advertising, directory listing, office supplies, etc.
The scammers take advantage of administrative assistants that have no idea whether any promotional or advertising activity has been requested.
Apart from that, scammers also target everyday people who have their own website. They send fake host service invoices or invoices for indexing their website on Google. Of course, these are all fake and you definitely need to pay attention to anything suspicious. The general rule is – if you are uncertain, don’t pay!
Online Shopping Scams
When scammers pretend to be legitimate online sellers, they are doing the online shopping scam. They will use a fake ad on genuine websites or create their own fake website to lure victims and steal their money. You should pay attention to:
Fake retailer websites – they look like a genuine online retail store and have sophisticated layouts and designs and even a stolen logo. The scam revolves around the method of payment – they will ask to be paid using pre-loaded money card or a wire transfer.
Online auction websites – even though most auction websites are completely legitimate, there are still many scammers who lurk on these websites and try to find a victim. The scammers will claim that the winner of the auction you were bidding in has decided to pull out, so you can purchase the item. The red flag here is when they request to make a deal outside the auction website, which is something you should never do!
Online classified websites – these promote the sale of service and goods, but allow negotiation on a price outside of the site. Scammers usually pose as sellers by posting fake ads for things like bikes, used cards, rental properties, pets, etc., and offer lower prices to lure potential victims. They will always ask for an up-front payment, and once they get their hands on the money they will disappear.
Betting & Sports Scams
Scammers know how to take advantage of people who are looking for an easy and quick way to earn money online. These people are an easy “prey” and often lose a lot of money trying to get rich overnight.
Betting and sports scams convince people into investing in foolproof software or a system that guarantees a profit on casino and sporting events. The reality is that these scams are a form of gambling and not a legitimate investment. After all, if it worked perfectly, why would anyone share it with you for a small fee?
We can divide betting & sports scams into three categories:
- Computer prediction software – scammers will try to sell you software that accurately predicts sporting results and gives you a great profit within a short time. These programs supposedly identify amazing opportunities based on large data and give you a safe bet.
- Sports investment – scammers will usually target people with funds to “invest” in a business opportunity and use financial and technical terms like “sports trading”, “sports arbitrage” and “sports wagering”. They will also have some fancy website or a brochure with diagrams of graphs proving huge returns for no effort.
- Betting syndicates – scammers will try to convince you into becoming a member of a betting syndicate where you’ll have to pay a compulsory fee and make additional deposits. In return, the scammer will promise to use the funds to place bets on behalf of the syndicate and you’ll receive a percentage of the profit.
Of course, behind all three cases are scammers that only want to steal your money.
Pyramid schemes have been around for more than a decade and are surprisingly still present in 2017. They are an illegal “get reach schemes” that recruit members to pay an entrance fee. They usually recruit people at home meetings, seminars, by email, social media or over the phone.
The pyramid scheme will work as long as members can constantly convince new people to join and pay the entrance fee. The higher your position in the pyramid is, the more money you’ll earn.
However, the number of people who are willing to join will dry up quickly and people who joined last will end up losing money. In addition, promoters of this type of scheme will try to disguise the true purpose by offering an opportunity to earn money by selling poor overpriced products that are very difficult to sell.
At some point every pyramid scheme will collapse and people at the bottom of the pyramid will end up losing money.
Identity Theft Scams
Identity theft is one of the most common types of scams that will probably reach its peak in 2017. It is a type of fraud when someone else uses your identity to steal money or gain some benefit. The two most common types of identity theft are phishing and hacking.
Any attempt to trick you into giving your personal information (credit card and bank account numbers, passwords, passport number, etc.) is called phishing. A scammer will contact you and pretend to work for a legitimate business (like a bank) and will ask for your personal information. There are thousands of different approaches a scammer might use, but they all lead to one thing – asking for the information they can use for fraudulent activities such as stealing your money.
There are two types of phishing scams:
- Pharming – the scammer will usually send you an email that redirects you to a fake website that looks the same as the legitimate site you wanted to visit. For example, there’s a good chance you received an email that informs you about the latest activities on your PayPal account and gives you a link to log in and check it out. However, that email was sent by a scammer who created a fake website that looks like PayPal where you would enter your username and password and he/she will use it to still your money.
- Whaling and spear phishing – these scams are targeted towards business where the scammer attempts to receive confidential information in order to use it for fraudulent purposes. The scammers are usually highly knowledgeable and use information that are unique to the business that they acquired elsewhere.
Hacking occurs when a person gains access to your private information by “breaking into” your computer, laptop, network or a mobile device.
There are three common hacking methods:
- Malware – the scammer convinces you to install software that gives him access to your files and tracks down everything you do on the computer. So for example, if you go to your PayPal account and enter your login information, the scammer will know your username and password. In most cases, people aren’t even aware that they are downloading software that will cause them many problems. The scammers create fake social media channels and promote random links with an interesting video. Once you click on the link you’ll be taken to some fake website that will ask you to install software to be able to watch the video. Alternatively, scammers will use pop-ups and websites that offer free file downloads once you download certain software.
- Ransomware – if scammers manage to hack into your computer they can change your passwords, use your personal information and even restrict you from accessing your own system. Ransomware scammers will demand payment to give you back control of your computer.
- Exploitation of security weaknesses – some people have unsecured WiFi connections, weak passwords and old antivirus protection that can be easily hacked. Once the hacker manage to access the computer, it will be easy to obtain information that will be used for fraudulent activities like identity theft or stealing money.
How to Protect Yourself from Scams in 2017
Fraud can happen to anyone and there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you become a victim of a scammer. Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to steal personal details or money. They target people of all backgrounds, ages and income level, so no one is safe. There’s no one particular group of people who are more likely to be targeted for a scam, and in most cases, it’s the gullible and naïve people who become victims.
Scams are successful as they look like the real thing and catch people off guard when they are least expecting it. Therefore, it’s important to be alert and learn how to protect yourself from scams to avoid becoming their next victim. With that being said, here is the list of 9 ways to make sure your money and private information stay intact.
1. Be alert to the fact that scams are all around us
When dealing with new people or businesses via email, social networking website or over the phone, always consider the possibility that someone may be trying to scam you. It’s good to be skeptical and take your time to investigate everything in details. Just remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. No one will give you thousands of dollars and you didn't win any lottery or inherited any money!
2. Don’t share your private information
Never give your personal information through email, over the phone or the Internet unless you initiated the contact and know exactly who you are dealing with. Always keep your credit card information confidential and never enter credit or bank account details in suspicious places, especially emails. In addition, it is a good idea to put a lock on your mailbox and keep pin numbers and passwords in a safe place. You should also pay attention to the information you are sharing on social media websites as scammers can use them and your picture to create a fake identity.
3. Have strong passwords
Although it’s easier to remember simple passwords like the date of your birth, you should always choose difficult passwords that are a combination of mix upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Also, do not use the same password for different accounts and make sure to change it every 3-6 months.
4. Secure your computer and mobile devices
Always have the latest antivirus protection, regularly update security software, protect your WiFi network, don’t share access with others and back up content to make sure your devices are safe. When you are using a public computer, never provide your personal information or access online banking.
5. Never open suspicious emails, pop-up windows or text
If you are not certain whether everything is legit, it’s the safest option not to open a file and delete it. Chances are the suspicious document contains a virus or software that will help the scammer hack into your computer and steal your personal information. In addition, you should be extra careful with emails as they are still the most common ways scammers reach their victims.
6. Beware of any request for your money or personal details
First of all, never send money to someone you never met face-to-face. This should be your number one rule that will prevent you from all kinds of scams. In addition, you should never share your credit card details, personal documents or online account details to anyone you don’t personally know or trust.
7. Be careful when shopping online
Offers that seem too good to be true are usually scams that you want to avoid. If you plan on purchasing products or services online, make sure that the website has “https” in the URL and a lock icon on the address bar. Also, make sure to always use online shopping services that you know and trust.
Apart from that, never pay for something up-front and never deal with people outside of the secured website (for example, Amazon).
8. Report it
The biggest mistake all victims make is not reporting the crime to the police. Maybe the police won’t be able to get your money back, but they will be able to warn others to avoid getting scammed as well.
9. Avoid follow-up scams
Scammers often take advantage of people when they are the most vulnerable and try to extract more money through a follow-up scam. For example, the same scammer may contact you and pretend to be a law enforcement agent who will retrieve your money for a fee.
What to Do if You Get Scammed
If you've lost money or gave your personal details to a scammer, you need to act, and you need to act fast. First of all, you need to realize that the money you gave is long gone and you won’t be able to get it back. However, there are things you need to do immediately to avoid losing even more money.
1. Contact your bank
If you've shared your personal credit card or banking information with a scammer, you should contact your bank so that they can take important steps and protect your bank account. They might be able to stop a check or a money transfer, perform a “charge back” (reverse the transaction) or close the account.
2. File a Police Report
Most people won’t call the police after they have been scammed as it sounds silly, right? However, scamming means stealing and you were just robbed, weren't you? When people get robbed on the street they immediately contact the police. It’s not important where or how you were robbed – the fact is that a criminal used the Internet and stole your money, which is definitely a crime.
You probably don’t need to dial 911 as this is not an emergency, so you should call the non-emergency number of the local police department and ask for the computer fraud crime division.
3. Contact Credit Bureau
If the scammer has your personal information (date of birth, social security number, etc.), then you should contact the credit bureau and place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit reports. This will prevent the scammers from using your information to get a credit card or a loan.
4. Contact Social Security Administration
In case the scammer has your social security number as well, you need to contact the Social Security Administration by calling 1-800-772-1213 or by creating a MySSA account.
5. Change your passwords and update your antivirus
If someone hacked into your computer and stole your personal information and money, you definitely need to call an expert that will help you change your passwords, update antivirus protection, install additional safety measurements and make sure that the hacker no longer has access to your computer.
Cybercrime is on the rise and in 2017 it will be even more popular. We can expect new sophisticated scams and more knowledgeable hackers who will try to take advantage of online users and steal their money and identity.
Law enforcement won’t be able to prevent the frauds or protect you from getting scammed, so basically it will be up to you to make sure you stay fully protected. Just make sure to have strong passwords and up-to-date antivirus protection and never share your personal information with anyone you don’t personally know or trust.
In addition, if something sounds too good to be true, then it’s likely a scam. So start being skeptical and realize that frauds are all over the internet, apply the above-mentioned tips and you should be safe.