The most successful online scams aren’t the most high-tech. They’re the most psychological. That’s the conclusion of three experts Debt.com recently spoke with…
1. Be wary of overanxious online customers
Richard Lowe calls himself the The Writing King because he’s a prolific author and ghostwriter. He was once hired to create a website for a friend who was also ghostwriter. Her client “Mike” needed a WordPress site.
“Mike” hired Lowe’s friend after finding her ghostwriting services advertised online. He requested that she write his autobiography. Lowe was immediately suspicious after Mike was eager to begin the transaction as quickly as possible.
“No one, and I mean no one, ever signs a ghostwriting contract without wanting to discuss the terms,” Lowe says. “I bid very high on the WordPress site, and he signed and accepted without discussion.”
Other red flags Lowe noticed: Mike had a generic email address but would only text-message after that. Then he had this convoluted way of wanting to pay…
“He wanted to send us $5,000 more than the contract amount,” Lowe recalls. “He would send us a cashier’s check, then we’d pay his contractor the difference.”
Presumably the check would bounce, and Lowe would have just sent $5,000 of his money to “Mike.” With just a few words, the transaction was quickly cancelled.
2. Pay attention to daily credit card charges
Before Andrew Warner founded the Hidden Profits Report, he lost money while searching for an easy job online.
“I was naive at the time and signed up to this website that allowed you to do data entry from home,” Warner says. “All I would have to pay was $50.”
It seemed like a good deal for Warner, who paid the fee with his credit card. He tried to get started right away, but the data entry site told him that there weren’t any opportunities in his area at the time.
“After a few days of checking and getting this message, I realized I was scammed,” Warner said. “But at least it was out of only $50.”
Or so he thought.
Warner had accepted the fate that he lost $50, but for a while he was unaware of further charges being made to his card.
“When I received my credit card statement, I saw that I was charged $50 per day,” said Warner. “I was scammed out of close to $1,500.”
Warner tried calling and emailing the company multiple times, but he never heard back. To stop the charges, he had to cancel his credit card.
3. Look out for fake support websites
Matt Ham, owner of Computer Repair Doctor, has seen many online scams. Ham says scammers set up fake support websites for popular computer services such as Microsoft. Sometimes they use these sites to spread viruses on people’s computers – then give them a phone number to help remove the virus.
“Once the scammers are in, they typically have two goals: Install malware to maintain control, and get their target to pay them,” Ham says.
That sounds brazen, but Ham says, “The most common scam is to fake like they are doing something useful.”
For example, scammers will run a software program that looks like it’s actively cleaning your computer, complete with notices and percentage updates – when in reality it’s doing nothing at all. Inevitably, they will ask for your credit card information to be payed for their “service.”
Ham’s advice to avoiding fake companies online:
- “The best protection is to be aware of who you’re talking to and guard your personal data. If you made the phone call, make sure the number you dial is the correct support number for the company you’re calling.”
- “If the call was incoming, it’s usually fake. Microsoft will never call you, and it’s also rare for other third-party tech support companies to call you.”
- “If you think it might be real, ask for their company name and tell them you need to Google them, and call them back through their official company number on their website. See if people online are complaining about scammers from that company.”
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