How to Spot Online Shopping, Phishing & Inheritance Scams

December 12, 2023

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Alima Faye

Content Creator

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With fraudulent schemes on the rise, vigilance has never been more critical. Naivety in the digital space is a luxury you can ill afford. If you find yourself suddenly enriched by the benevolence of an obscure distant relative or selected as the lucky winner of a foreign lottery, skepticism should be your default response. Here’s what to watch for and how to safeguard your assets against these pervasive cons.


1. The Email Inheritance Scam

Red Flag: Unsolicited Financial Windfalls

The pitch is always enticing: a message claiming that a distant relative or an unknown benefactor has left you a considerable inheritance. To claim it, however, you'll need to provide personal information or make an initial payment to 'unlock' the promised sum.

Verdict: Remember, inheritances and genuine offers don't come with a cost to the beneficiary. No legitimate financial transaction requires an upfront payment to release funds. Delete these emails and report them when possible.


2. Phishing: A Subtle Deception

Red Flag: Requests for Personal Information

Phishing scams are crafty. These communications pretend to be from reputable entities — banks, credit card companies, even government agencies — and may ask to verify your account by clicking a link or providing confidential details.

Action: Always scrutinize the sender's details and hover over links to see where they really lead before clicking. Real organizations won't ask you to send personal information via email or text. Use contact information sourced independently from the company's legitimate website for any follow-up.


3. Tech Support Frauds

Red Flag: Unsolicited Tech Help Offers

One day, you receive a call, an email, or even a pop-up warning on your computer: "Your system is infected with a virus!" The so-called 'tech support' individual insists they can solve the problem, often demanding remote access to your machine.

Resolution: Reputable companies like Microsoft or Apple do not proactively reach out to customers about potential viruses. Do not give a stranger remote access to your computer — it's akin to giving them the keys to your digital life. If you're concerned about your computer's security, seek help from a trusted local service.


4. Online Shopping Scams

Red Flag: Deals That Are Too Good to Be True

Scammers often set up fake online stores, or offer items on well-known sites at a fraction of their actual cost. Once you pay, you may receive a product that is counterfeit, of inferior quality, or you might receive nothing at all.

Guidance: Check the seller's ratings and reviews, look for a physical address and a phone number on their site, and be cautious if they only accept payment through wire transfers or gift cards. Use payment methods that offer protection, such as credit cards or reputable online payment systems.


5. Love and Deception Online

Red Flag: Online Sweethearts Asking for Money

Scammers use online dating and social networking sites to form emotional bonds with their victims before spinning a sob story and requesting financial support.

Advice: Keep the relationship to the platform where you met, be wary of sharing personal details, and never send money to someone you haven't met in person. Genuine connections are formed based on mutual trust and respect, not financial transactions.


6. Bogus Job Offers

Red Flag: Employment That Costs You Money

Job scams lure in those looking for work with promises of high salaries and remote work opportunities, but with a catch – they require payment for training, background checks, or equipment before you can get started.

Warning: Legitimate jobs will never require you to spend money before you begin. Thoroughly research any company offering you a position, especially if the hiring process skips the formalities of interviews and contract discussions.


Wrapping Up

Each type of scam preys on different aspects of human nature — greed, trust, desire, or desperation. Your best defense is a proactive one: educate yourself on these tactics, approach unsolicited communications with suspicion, and always, always protect your personal and sensitive information