You may have seen some common online money scams in your inbox or heard about them on news reports. Online scammers are smart, and can often create situations or visuals that can confuse even a savvy online consumer. How can you determine what is and isn’t a scam, and what should you do if you feel like you are being scammed?
Phishing is one of the more common online scams out there. Phishing is most commonly carried out by email, and you may have even seen these emails in your inbox. The email appears to come from your bank, credit card provider, or EBay. They look authentic, and request that you provide certain sensitive information, like your username and password or account numbers. Fortunately, avoiding phishing is easier than you might think. Never provide information after clicking on a link in an email. If you do receive one of these emails and feel it might be legitimate, access the site independently of the email. Many banks and other institutions also offer the opportunity to report phishing when it occurs.
Another common online scam that impacts many people is the Western Union scam. While Western Union is a perfectly reputable organization, it should not be used for sending money to people you do not know. Avoid paying for online auctions via Western Union, and do not accept payments via Western Union or a similar service if you are the seller. You should also be certain that you have payment in hand before shipping any item. Use a standard money order or an online payment service like PayPal for those types of transactions, whether you are the buyer or seller.
Many people have also found themselves victims of the Nigerian letter fraud. In this case, you will receive an email requesting your assistance in helping an individual with transferring money around, for any number of reasons. Such emails should be deleted immediately and not responded to, regardless of how convincing they sound.
Other common email scams request your bank information or other personal identifying information. Simply put, don’t. You should never give out information like this to anyone or any site online unless you have solicited contact. To do so puts you at significant risk of identity theft. In most cases, if something looks or sounds too good to be true, it is, in fact, too good to be true. Common sense is the best protection against online scammers of all sorts.
For more information on online fraud and scams, see this PC World article .
Other places to not trust people are at pawn shops or flea market parking lots. Someone driving by in a van who asked you to buy a stereo system or computer is normally not legit and should not be trusted. Be on the lookout for scammers who are after your hard earned money.