“There’s a sucker born every minute” was Barnum’s perspective on life and business and he was right. For as long as gullible heartstrings are around, scammers are just a stone’s throw away from targeting a PC or laptop. And that PC or laptop should not be yours.
Take a look at these common scams perpetuated on the Internet and learn how you can safeguard both your wallet and your personal information.
You may have seen this in your inbox. The Nigerian Scam, a.k.a. The 419, is a fraudulent scheme, appropriately named after an article in Nigeria’s Criminal Code outlawing fraud, that gave $12.7 billion into the pockets of scammers in 2013. How does it work? You get an email from a purportedly wealthy Nigerian who seeks to relocate his/her large fortune out of the country after a loved one has passed.
The email offers you a “share” in the percentage of millions that the email sender is supposedly transferring out of Nigeria for “safekeeping” purposes. All they ask from you in return is to send him/her small amounts of money using your bank account or credit card to purportedly “pay” for legal fees, taxes, and bribes to Nigerian government officials.
These scammers will use your personal information from your back account and credit cards to impersonate you. Some of the victims of this scam have even gone to Nigeria and ended up being imprisoned. The Nigerian government is unsympathetic to victims because they are considered to be co-conspirators, albeit unintentionally, in removing funds from Nigeria in a manner that is contrary to Nigerian law.
You receive an email from an organization, community or enterprise familiar to you like an online retailer, a school you may have attended or a bank that you used to patronize. This email directs you to a bogus site to verify your personal information (email address, password, bank account and credit card numbers). After you have revealed your personal info, the bogus site then steals these details and uses them for their own gains.
The email informs you that you have just been pre-approved for a bank loan or a credit card application. The catch is that you have to pay the up-front fee. Credit card companies charge an annual fee but this is applied to your balance and is never charged during the sign-up. As to the pre-approved bank loan, you don’t know these people and they don’t know you, so why will they make you an offer like that?
The email congratulates you for winning a lottery or the sweepstake which you didn’t enter to your knowledge. All you have to do is pay the “processing fee” or contact the individual who will process your prize money. No legitimate sweepstake or lottery will ever ask for “processing” fees in order for the winner to get the cash prize. Additionally, if you never purchased a sweepstake or lottery ticket, how in the world could you have won?
The Bottom Line
What can you do to protect yourself from these scams? First of all, never give anyone who contacts you through email your personal information including your bank account and credit card details. See to it that your financial transactions are done on a legitimate and secure server and only through reputable websites. If you have just become a victim of a scam, change your passwords immediately and report the scam to the proper authorities.