Gamblers and con men say there’s a sucker born every minute, but you don’t have to enter a casino or gambling joint to be one. Just use your computer and you’ll find that the internet is bursting with online scams in search of victims. These scams have been around for decades and exist mainly because of naivety and ignorance. Here are a few you should be aware of:
1. The Nigerian prince scam
Got an important letter from a member of the royal family promising you a lot of money? Don’t bet on it! ADT Security Services says Americans lost $703,000 in 2018 to this type of fraud, with victims losing an average of $2,133.
The Nigerian prince scam is a variation of the advance-fee scam (also known as the 419 scam). In the old days, this was done with fax and traditional mail. Today, the victim is notified via email, instant messaging, or social media by a purported Nigerian prince, investor, or government official.
The recipient is promised a share of a large sum of money (sometimes as much as 40% of the total amount) in exchange for a small upfront payment. The fraudster claims this is needed to transfer the money to the recipient’s bank account.
The scammer may also ask for bank account numbers and other personal information to process the transaction. Once the victim sends money, however, the fraudster either invents more reasons to fleece the former or disappears completely.
The FBI says this scam is popular because it lures victims into parting with their hard-earned cash in anticipation of receiving something of greater value. The promised payout can be in the form of gold bullion, blood diamonds, checks, or bank drafts. Scammers often use internet cafes to send phony emails and refer to victims as “magas,” which in West Africa means “fools.”
While Nigeria is often named as the source of this scam, the San Francisco Chronicle says only 6% of incidents were traced to that country. Most of the emails originate in the United States and other countries like the Ivory Coast, Togo, South Africa, the Netherlands, and Spain.
2. Internet ticket fraud
The 2008 Summer Olympics was memorable for many reasons. Aside from setting many new world and Olympic records, it was the first time that the event was held in Beijing, and was seen by over three billion people worldwide. It is also considered the most expensive Summer Olympics of all time.
Unfortunately, this setting was also used as an excuse to milk people out of $50 million. All that was done via internet ticket fraud.
This popular scam is alive and well thanks to online ticket agencies and dishonest ticket resellers. Consumers are tricked into buying fake tickets to sporting events, concerts, and other happenings.
To appeal to victims, scammers usually target high-profile events to take advantage of the high ticket sales. The Better Business Bureau says the usual victims are millennials who will pay through the nose to see their favorite celebrities.
Alas, the tickets are never delivered, may have forged bar codes, or are duplicates of legitimate tickets.
In the case of Beijing 2008, the fake tickets were sold through a professional website run by the US-registered Xclusive Leisure and Hospitality. The person behind the scam was identified as Terence Shepherd, a British national who eluded authorities for years but was finally jailed in 2011.
3. Celebrity impersonator scams
Getting a message from your favorite celebrity can be exciting, especially if that person gives you a prize for being a faithful fan. But most of these messages are fake and are mere variations of the phishing game.
In the latter, the victim receives an email supposedly from a reputable company like a social media website, bank, or other trustworthy entity. This usually contains a link to a fake site where recipients are asked to re-enter or verify their usernames, passwords, or bank or credit card details. This is done to obtain personal information that scammers can exploit.
Phishing also occurs when fraudsters masquerade as celebrities and influencers. The American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) warns that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are brimming with fake celebrity accounts that exist mainly to fool devoted fans.
One incident involved YouTube star Philip DeFranco, a news commentator with over six million subscribers. A fake DeFranco messaged some loyal followers saying that they would receive a gift for commenting on his videos. They were asked to click a link that turned out to be a phishing site.
The real DeFranco warned fans about this, but it was too late. More than 150 YouTube users fell for the hoax and shared their sensitive information.
Before scammers strike, protect your critical data with the trusted IT solutions of Capstone IT. We specialize in managed IT services to shield small businesses in the Rochester and Buffalo areas from cybercriminals. Consult us today and put an end to your tech troubles!