Online scams have been around for as long as the internet itself, which is perhaps not surprising as fraud, theft and deception will always follow the crowds; indeed, as the internet`s popularity continues to grow, so too will the prevalence of online scams. In the early days of the internet, many surfers were unaware of the dangers posed by internet scams, which were often relatively unsophisticated. Although a number of the earliest internet scams aimed to exploit various security flaws in operating systems, dial-up connections and software in order to target the credit card details of online users, the majority of scams were less technologically advanced and employed more simple techniques to deprive people of their money; for example, through bogus charity websites. Today, internet scams have increased enormously in number and sophistication, so the ever-expanding online community ought to be aware of the most common types around today.
As the world continues to experience the lingering effects of the credit crunch and subsequent recession, money has become a key concern for all but a privileged minority. The most prevalent internet scams today, therefore, aim to steal or extort money from people whilst preying on their financial fragility. Among the most common of these scams include those that offer loans and debt consolidation. Whilst many fraudulent sites that purport to provide such services appear perfectly safe and genuine, they are actually set up to obtain the bank and credit card details of victims; in fact, other personal details may be stolen in the pursuit of identity theft crimes. Whenever taking out an online loan or using any kind of financial service (including shopping) over the internet, it is essential that the website in question is checked to ensure its authenticity. Typically, this can be achieved by running a whois (www.whois.net) search on the site to check who has registered the domain, whilst it is also worth checking that sensitive data is exchanged securely (look for a padlock icon) and a quick search on Google can reveal any mass complaints or warnings.
Lottery scams are also common online and invariably involve some apparently desperate and potentially wealthy young chap from Nigeria whose numbers have just come in. Unfortunately, said Nigerian requires a bank account in which to deposit the funds, so he is in search for a gracious host – who will be offered a percentage of the winnings. Similar scams involve a direct lottery win or missing inheritance – any story that allows the scammer to obtain a victim`s bank details. Another popular version of this scam involves members of dating sites who pretend to be people they are not in order to attract potential mates. After a relationship develops, the scammer will request money for one reason or another.
Other common internet scams include fake shopping websites, fake auctions, fake classified ads (or those that tempt potential buyers to an address, whereupon they are robbed) and spyware and viruses. Usually, the best way to report online scams is buy contacting the police, websites such as www.consumerfraudreporting.org and payment providers such as Paypal. Finally, work from home scams have also become popular during recent times; however, many genuine work from home opportunities exist so care must be taken to identify those that are fraudulent.