You might think you’re fairly sceptical and not someone who’s easily taken in. But according to research from the independent website Knowthenet.org, women aged 25-34 are most likely to be victims of online scams. Around 2,000 people were tested to see if they could identify fake social networking sites or whether they’d fall for competition scams or buy counterfeit goods online. The survey comes as a new online scam has been identified – one where you’re cold called about a supposed virus problem.
Don’t think you won’t fall for an internet scam
Years ago scams were relatively unsophisticated and phishing emails (designed to get you to click on a fake link) were littered with spelling mistakes. Today scammers are quick to react to events – for example, thousands of emails were sent out after it emerged that HMRC had over and undercharged people on their tax – and are much harder to spot.
- Try the test yourself. You can take the ThreatTest on Knowthenet’s website.
- Social networking sites are a prime target for fraudsters. Facebook is the site that fraudsters seem to be targeting most actively. Common scams include IQ tests where you have to give your phone number in order to view the results. According to Knowthenet, if you do, you’ll be charged a weekly fee.
- Fraudsters’ demands for money. Every year thousands of emails and instant messages are sent from people who’ve supposedly had a problem and need some money. They can range from ‘friends’ who’ve had problems while travelling abroad to service personnel who have been injured in Iraq or Afghanistan.
- Flat rental fraud. The classified adverts website Gumtree has been targeted by fraudsters who advertise properties for rent and ask for upfront rent or a deposit to be paid by Western Union or other transfer services.
SAVVY TIP: The fraudster normally says that he/she is abroad which is why the deposit must be paid using a money transfer service. The flat may also be advertised at a bargain rent.
- Counterfeit goods. The run-up to Christmas is always a busy time for online fraudsters as many of us buy from websites we might not use at other times of the year. A company that has a .co.uk ending to its web address doesn’t have to be based in the UK and if it’s not in the UK you could find it hard or impossible to get your money back.
SAVVY TIP: It’s probably unrealistic to suggest that you should only use websites that you’re familiar with but it’s certainly worth Googling the name of the company, checking consumer forums to see if others have had bad (or good) experiences. Also, find out how you can get in touch with the company. Does it have a telephone number (and does it work)? Is there a physical address or a PO Box number?
Another scam that has recently emerged involves web users being cold called by fraudsters claiming to be able to fix virus problems or being encouraged to download rogue anti-virus software. GetSafeonline says that there are two versions of this scam:
- Cold calls. Fraudsters cold call you pretending to be from a legitimate software company and tell you that your anti-viral software has stopped working or that you should check that your computer is protected against the latest scams. They either talk you through a series of commands that will generate an error message or get you to download a scan that identifies a ‘problem’.
SAVVY TIP: The ‘repair’ or solution will either be anti-virus software that’s available free of charge elsewhere (which the fraudsters will charge you for) or worse.
- Malicious anti-virus. It’s also known as ‘rogue’ anti-virus software. Fraudsters will either target you directly by phone or via pop ups on legitimate websites or emails. The ‘anti-virus’ software you download may be malicious — designed to steal your personal data or to send out spam emails to contacts stored on your computer.
SAVVY TIP: Don’t respond to cold calls and be wary of clicking on pop up adverts or emails that say your anti-virus software is faulty or that your PC is in danger of being infected by viruses. Make sure your own anti-virus software is kept up to date and that your firewall is turned on.
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