Scams to Watch Out for in 2021

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Some scams are easy to spot, while others are very sneaky that one may not realize they have been scammed until it is too late. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Almost everyone becomes the target of a scam at some point in their lives.

Most scams need you to do something before they can work. In some cases, the scammer may ask monetary help for some money with a higher interest return, while some may lure you with prize money such as lottery, bumper prize winner, etc.

While the country is edging towards becoming more digitalization, citizens should watch out for cybercrimes. Falling prey to such scams is quite common as scammers are qualified and smart to attract you into their web. Below are some of the well-known scams you should be aware, and how to counter them if you become an unwitting victim.

Nigerian Scam (Nigerian 419 Scam)

Nigerian Scam is a variation of the advanced-fee scam but deserves its spot since it has become very prevalent. Emails typically promise large rewards for helping “government officials” move money to a US financial institution, with upfront fees required. The scam started in Nigeria and violate Penal Code 419 in the country, so it is often referred to as the Nigerian 419 scam.

Charity Fraud

Charity scams simply play on the emotions of victims to persuade them to hand over donations to fake charities and organizations. Subjects might include puppies in danger or disaster relief efforts. The emails typically include some excuse why the matter is urgent. They may include links to legitimate-looking websites. Aside from sending money, victims may be handing over their debit card or credit card details to these scammers.

Work-At-Home Job Scams

Working from home has its advantages. It is a major lifestyle goal for many people. Scam artists capitalize on the dreams of these would-be remote workers by luring them with fantastic, yet realistic-sounding work-at-home job opportunities. The catch? They just need to send a wire transfer or money order upfront to pay for some equipment or educational materials before they can get started, but these never arrive, and there is no actual job.

Cancelled Account

Some scammers spend a fair amount of time creating official-looking emails from reputable service providers. They tell the target that the account is about to be suspended and that they need to provide information to keep it open. The email might include a link to a phishing site requesting login credentials and billing details to secure the “continuation of service.”

CEO Fraud

This one is more targeted toward businesses. The scammer identifies the person within a company that has control over funds. They then pose as someone with authority such as the CEO, and request money is transferred to a specified account. With all of the information available on LinkedIn these days, it is fairly easy for fraudsters to identify whom to target and to come up with convincing stories.

This type of phishing requires some preparation because the scammer needs to act convincingly like the executive they are purporting to be. The fraudster will then contact someone in the company who has the authority to move money and direct that person to transfer funds to the scammer.

As with most phishing scams, CEO phishing is most effective when there is a sense of urgency or emotionalism applied to the request. Therefore, many CEO phishers will zero in on new members of the finance department hoping that the new person is still not well-versed with all the safeguards that may be in place to prevent the scam from working.

Greeting Cards

The very simplistic greeting card scam can be used to infect your computer with malware. The email poses as a greeting card (e-card) from a friend or family member and encourages you to click a link. Once you do, the malware is automatically downloaded and installed on your system.

Affinity Fraud

Affinity fraud refers to fraud when someone uses a common interest or belief such as religion to lure you in. It often happens in person, especially within religious communities, but can be conducted via email too.

The above email uses faith to try to hook the reader and persuade them that it is legitimate.

Guaranteed Bank Loan or Credit Card

In this take on the advanced fee scam, you are told that you are pre-approved for a loan or credit card but that you just need to pay some processing fee. It could be a small amount but fraudsters might be looking for bank account info more so than the money itself.

Service Provider

This one often targets businesses and involves an email containing an invoice for legitimate-sounding services. A sense of urgency is used to convince the receiver that they need to pay immediately or risk having the case transferred to a collections agency.

Scam Compensation Scam

Yes, believe it or not, this one pops up regularly in spam folders. The email explains that its sender is coordinating some compensation for scam victims, and the receivers’ name is on the list of victims.

Elder Fraud

While many types of internet fraud can target virtually anyone with access to a computer, many are crafted specifically with the elderly in mind. Seniors are often targeted for identity theft since they are perceived as being more susceptible to certain scams. Elderly people seeking to invest are often looking for short-term lucrative projects to supplement their retirement income. Investment scams simply promise fantastic returns to get seniors to hand over their money.

Insurance Schemes

Insurance scam plays on the assumption that seniors might be less focused on what they have now and more so on what they will leave behind for loved ones. This type of scheme might involve a phone call or email persuading senior citizens that they need an annuity or life insurance policy. Often the insurance firm is completely made up, but insurance scams are sometimes carried out by legitimate agents.

Health Scams

As people age, health tends to deteriorate and the need for prescription medication can become expensive. Many online pharmacies have stepped in to offer drugs and other healthcare at lower-than-average prices. The problem is, most of these sites do not operate within the law or follow standard practices. For example, the founder of Canada Drugs is wanted in the US for selling counterfeit medicines, but the website is still very much up and running.

Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware that involves an attacker encrypting your files with the promise of decrypting them in return for a fee. One of the most notorious cases of ransomware was the 2017 WannaCry attack in which more than 400,000 machines were infected. Ultimately, criminals took an estimated $140,000 worth of bitcoin in exchange for decrypting users’ hijacked files. Backing up files regularly can help protect you against the threat of ransomware.

Sextortion

In this form of extortion, victims are typically lured into sharing intimate photos or videos, often through online dating sites or social media. They may even be prompted to perform explicit acts while being secretly filmed. They are then asked to pay a fee to prevent the photos or videos from being released.

Hitman

This terrifying scam involves threats of physical violence and even death, usually sent via email. The claim is often that the person sending the email has been hired to kill you and will relinquish their role in exchange for a fee. Emails might include personal details garnered from social media or other sources to make them seem even more threatening. Aside from going after your money, some scammers also try to obtain your personal information for use in identity theft.

Terrorist Threat

This is a variation of the hitman scam that plays on today’s societal fear of terrorist acts. Again, the basic premise is that your life will be spared only if you pay up.

Bomb Threat

This is an email telling people that there is a bomb planted in their building and it can be disconnected only if a certain fee is paid.

DDoS Attack

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are similar to ransomware attacks, except that instead of file encryption, you often have whole websites or internet services taken down. Web servers hosting these sites and services are flooded with dummy traffic that overwhelms them, slowing the site down to a crawl or even shutting it down altogether. Victims are instructed to pay a fee to gain back control over the service. Businesses are often prime targets for this type of attack.

Bank Fraud

Bank fraud vishing scams (over the phone phishing) are some of the most common you will come across. Scammers will typically pose as a financial institution representative and tell you there has been suspected fraud or suspicious activity on your account. While some will try to extract personal or bank account information, other scammers have different tactics. One, in particular, involves persuading targets to install protective software on their computer to block any more fraudulent transactions. What the software does is allow remote access to the victim’s computer.

Tax Fraud

These are often carried out over the phone or through a combination of phone calls and emails. The first contact via phone may be automated, meaning scammers can reach a huge number of targets very easily. It also means they only have to speak with anyone who calls back. These callers would be considered qualified leads and easy targets at that point since they have already fallen prey to the first stage of the scam.

Prize Scam

Fake prize or contest winnings are often communicated via a phone call or automated voice message. Promised prizes could be in the form of cash, a car, or an all-expenses-paid vacation. In reality, fraudsters are looking to find out personal details (including your address and Aadhaar number) for use in credit card fraud or identity theft.

Social Media Scam

With the popularity of social media continuing to boom, it is no surprise that it is considered a ripe environment for scammers. While many of the other scams on this list could potentially be carried out through social media, few very specific ones have popped up on social platforms like, “See who’s viewed your profile”.

This scam takes advantage of the curiosity of Facebook users and might pop up as an Ad while you are browsing the site. You will be prompted to download an App with the promise of being able to see who has viewed your profile. The thing is, Facebook does not give this information out, even to third-party applications. All you are doing is handing over access to your Facebook account, including your details, and possibly banking information.

The above information will aid you to deal with such nefarious scams smartly.

The best way to avoid being scammed is to stay away from being enticed, and if you find something fishy, contact the police immediately.