The anonymity provided by the internet can be a very convenient excuse for criminals to trick unsuspecting victims into participating in well-designed scams. Fortunately, there are signs you can watch out for that warn you of an online fraud. Learn these 10 signs to avoid becoming a victim:
1. The claims are too amazing.
You know what people say’ it it’s too good to be true, it probably is. A common sign that you are dealing with online fraud is that you come across terminologies, scientific studies and statistics that are just too vague and too generalized to be verified. If you try to find independent research regarding the product or company, you won’t find any simply because there isn’t one.
2. You’re being pressured to take part or else.
Online fraudsters like to play up the sense of urgency by telling you that you have to grab the opportunity immediately or lose the chance to earn or win a lot of money. This is commonly done for investment scams to prevent you from doing any research about them.
3. You’ve won something in a contest or lottery you never joined. Winning something without joining anything is a sign of online fraud. Scammers will try to convince you that they picked your name from ‘electronic raffling’ and that you can claim your prize if you’ll only pay for the shipping fees, taxes, raffle tickets and other charges. The fee could be as little as a few dollars or as big as a few hundred dollars.
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4. You’re being promised a lot of money within a short period of time. It’s common for online fraudsters to play to people’s desire for more money in order to lure them into a scam. Generally, this type of online fraud will ask you to invest a certain amount of money in a company, with the promise that you will see this money double in just a few weeks or months.
In the end, you either hear the sad news that the investment didn’t succeed because of a very volatile market or you just never hear from the company again.
5. You’ll be dealing with a product you’ve never heard of before.
Eel farms, anyone? The more exotic the product, the easier it is to make up stories about it, particularly if it involves technology, software and health care. Online fraudsters hope that by pretending that a promising new product can offer whopping returns, they can trick people into buying.
6. There is no real company to speak of.
When you search online about the business, the only information you can find is the one posted on their website. Elsewhere, the company is a non-entity. If you conduct the most basic research, you won’t find any information about the company or individual.
7. The website address is different from the one you’re used to.
Online fraudsters often use copycat sites to lure visitors from the legitimate sites. Scams involving fake banking and employment offers often do this. You will receive an e-mail or read an ad online encouraging you to click on a link. This link will open a website that resembles that of a legitimate business.
However, if you perform a separate search, you’ll find that the real company’s website has a different URL address. If you check with the legitimate company, you will be informed that no such business, investment or job offer exists.
8. You are asked to pay upfront.
A common sign of an online fraud is that the people behind the scam don’t wait too long to ask you for your money. Even before you receive the product, prize or whatever it was promised to you, the scammers will be asking you to pay an upfront fee.
Another trick is that you will be led away from a legitimate site and asked to negotiate for payments on a person-to-person basis. For example, if you will be buying an item on Ebay and the person you’re dealing with is running a scam, he will be asking you to get off Ebay and communicate through personal IM. Once you send your money, you’ll never hear from that person again.
9. There’s absolutely no risk for you.
If it’s a business you’re being offered and it’s a legitimate business entity, they should not be telling you there is no risk at all. Businesses and investments always carry risks. Otherwise, why would some businesses fail and others succeed?
If you’re being offered an ‘exciting, one-time, exclusive offer’ regarding a low- or no-risk investment opportunity, just say no, thanks and move on. No company, not even the most established ones, can promise you guaranteed returns.
10. Never accept a proposal, join an investment club or pay for anything online without checking it independently first. Find out everything you can before parting with your money. Consider everything dubious until proven otherwise. If you spot signs of an online fraud, don’t send a reply through e-mail message to harangue the scammers or try to teach them a lesson. Simply delete or ignore their message.