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Common Internet Scams - An Overview

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Email and the Internet is a wonderful resource that has revolutionized the way humans communicate and access information. Unfortunately, it has also proven to be a fertile medium for the unscrupulous and the morally challenged. Scammers regularly use email in attempts to steal money or personal information from unsuspecting victims. Those inexperienced in the ways of the Internet are especially vulnerable to these scammers.

The good news is that it is not difficult to learn how to recognise scam attempts that arrive via email. Included below are descriptions of three of the most common types of email driven scams as well as some general indicators that should help you recognize scam emails.

Phisher Scams:

You may receive an email from a bank/online service provider/ financial institution that asks you to click a link and visit a website in order to provide personal information. Such an email is more than likely the type of Internet scam known as "phishing".

A phisher scam is one in which victims are tricked into providing personal information such as account numbers and passwords to what they believe to be a legitimate company or organization. In order to carry out this trick, the scammers often create a "look-a-like" website that is designed to resemble the target company's official website. Typically, emails are used as "bait" in order to get the potential victim to visit the bogus website. Be wary of any email that asks you to click on a link and provide sensitive personal information such as banking details. Information submitted on these bogus websites is harvested by the scammers and may then be used to steal funds from the user's accounts and/or steal the victim's identity.

Most legitimate companies would not request sensitive information from customers via email. DO NOT click on the links in these emails. DO NOT provide any information about yourself. If you have any doubts at all about the veracity of an email, contact the company directly.

Find out more about Phisher scams

Nigerian Scams:

You may receive an email/letter/fax that asks for your help to access a large sum of money in a foreign bank account. The message says that you will get a percentage of the funds in exchange for your help.

In all probability, the message is an example of the type of scam known as a Nigerian or "419" scam. The "large sum of money" does not exist. The messages are an opening gambit designed to draw potential victims deeper into the scam. Those who initiate a dialogue with the scammers by replying to the scam messages will eventually be asked for advance fees supposedly required to allow the deal to proceed. They may also become the victims of identity theft. The scammers use a variety of stories to explain why they need your help to access the funds.

For example:
If you receive one of these scam emails, it is important that you do not respond to it in any way. The scammers are likely to act upon any response from those they see as potential victims.

Find out more about Nigerian Scams

Lottery Scams:

You may receive an email/letter/fax that claims that you have won a great deal of money in an international lottery even though you have never bought a ticket. The email may claim that your email address was randomly chosen out of a large pool of addresses as a "winning entry". Such emails are almost certainly fraudulent. In some cases, the emails claim to be endorsed by well-known companies such as Microsoft or include links to legitimate lottery organization websites. Any relationships implied by these endorsements and links will be completely bogus.

There is no lottery and no prize. Those who initiate a dialogue with the scammers by replying to the messages will be first asked to provide a great deal of personal information. Eventually, they will be asked to send money, ostensibly to cover expenses associated with delivery of the supposed "winnings". They may also become the victims of identity theft. DO NOT respond to these messages. DO NOT supply any personal information what so ever to the scammers.

Find out more about Lottery Scams

General Scam Indicators:

The scams described above are some of the most common types of Internet fraud. However, these fraudsters are clever people who may use many variations of the above scams to achieve their nefarious ends.

In general, be wary of unsolicited emails that:
By taking the time to educate yourself about these common types of scam, and/or by sharing this information with others, you can make a valuable contribution to the war against Internet fraud.


Article byBrett M.Christensen



Reprint Rights

Every week, I get a considerable number of emails enquiries regarding various types of Internet scams. Unfortunately, quite a few of these are from desperate people who have already sent money to scammers and are seeking help to recover their lost funds. Sadly, there is virtually nothing that I can do to help victims except advise them to take their case to the police. In fact, even law enforcement authorities may be powerless to help victims.

Naturally, with regard to Internet scams, prevention is much better than any cure. And the key to prevention is simply education. Thousands of new computer users are joining the Internet every day and these people are especially vulnerable. As well, even experienced users may have dangerous gaps in their knowledge with regard to the ways of Internet scammers.

As computer users, perhaps we all have a certain responsibility to help fight Internet scammers. You can help by
To that end, I am extending full reprint rights to the article above. This means that you can freely copy the article and send it via email, include it on your website, blog, discussion group or newsletter, print copies of it to give to your friends or include it in paper publications.

Alternatively, you can simply provide a link to this page

Don't underestimate the power of individual communication as a method of disseminating information. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! I'm very pleased to say that along with the sadder stories from victims, I also receive quite a few "thank-you" emails from people who have narrowly avoided becoming scam victims because of information they found on the Hoax-Slayer website.

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