Safety Online: Avoiding Scams

At times it is hard to discern between legitimate opportunities and the “too good to be true” pitch of the scam artist.  In the electronic age, it is hard to know for sure who you are dealing with online. There are various scams designed to steal your information, your money, and your integrity. It isn’t surprising, with so many opportunities available, that thousands of innocent people are taken advantage of on a daily basis.  The shame of this industry is the disgusting manipulation of people by selling them a dream rather than providing a real opportunity. Many victims of these various schemes are often left embarrassed, despised by their friends and relatives, and missing several hundred dollars from their bank accounts.  In an effort to make sure that our faithful readers do not fall victim to such dastardly traps, we have compiled some basic rules that will help identify erroneous opportunities.

Legitimate Jobs Do Not Require Your Monetary Investment.  With the decrease in employment these days, it is not unusual for people to search online for job opportunities.  The number one thing you should watch for is the requirement of personal investment in order to acquire a position. No one that is offering you a job should need your money in order to hire you.  They will keep asking you for money even after you send the initial payment that they required. There will be no easy money made and you will be out the money that you handed over to the scam artists.  I have an example of ways they will try and lure you in.  You are looking at ads for jobs online and you see one that catches your eye.  You could be a ” Secret Shopper” and make tons of money only working for a few hours a week.  You need no experience or education.  Your reply to the e-mail listed on the add and ask for more information.  The “company” replies saying that you will be required to visit a local store each day and make a purchase and turn in a report about your experience.   In order to get started you need to send them $19.95 to the address listed below and they will certify you to become a “secret shopper.” Watch Out; this is a Scam!  There are secret shopper businesses out there, but it is unnecessary to pay money to anyone to get into the secret shopper business.  The Federal Trade Commission has a link on there site of legitimate places to apply to become a secret shopper, but you are not going to make the great amounts of money with little effort that you are promised with this scam.

Easy Money is Not Usually Legal or Profitable.  If someone is offering you money online or through an e-mail and it seems too good to be true, it is!  This may be posed as someone who lives in another country and needs help moving money to the United States.  All you need to do is deposit the money order they send you into your account and then return a small portion of the money to another address.  You are promised to get a percent of the large sum of money.  Someone could also send you an email that you have won millions of dollars worth in a foreign lottery. All you need to do is send a few hundred dollars to retrieve it or give them your bank account information so that they can deposit it into your account.  Similar scams can be targeted toward churches or religious organizations where a unknown person contacts them from far away claiming that they have a large sum of money that they want to leave to the church. They claim they need help in moving the “gift” and require that a small sum of money to be sent ahead to cover cost and fees.  All these different scams ask for your money in order to receive a large sum in the future.  They play on peoples greed and ignorance.  People get lost in the promise of wealth to such a degree that hundreds of dollars are sent based on a ridiculous promise of thousands.  If they are not asking for money, but are sending  a large amount of money to you, chances are that they are laundering money out of the country in your name.  This is illegal and you don’t want to get involved in it. There can be serious legal consequences.

Do Not Give Out Your Personal Information Online.  Legitimate companies will not request your information, especially in an e-mail with a link.  This is called a phishing scam.  People will imitate companies by sending an official looking e-mail with a stolen logo.  They will ask an unsuspecting user to divulge passwords, credit card numbers, PINs, etc.  They usually pose as a bank or financial institute that you trust.  Your personal information may be requested to clear up a problem affecting your account. You are to follow the link on the e-mail to a phony imitation website that wants you to login with your user name and password.  If anyone e-mails you requesting your information, don’t give in.  Call the real business and verify that they are the ones sending the e-mail and you will most likely find out it will not be them. This is also good because it allows that business to alert other customers of this phishing scam.

Hopefully, I have helped you in some way to stay safe online.  If you have any advice for others on scams, please leave a comment below; It will be appreciated. Thank you!

Helen Stockman