While the exact number of cases is extremely difficult to determine, online scams generate more than $55 billion in losses on a yearly basis.
In the US alone, the FTC registered more than 2.4 million complaints in 2022. So, it’s essential that you take steps to protect against online scammers whenever you browse the web.
Here are ten red flags scammers may be trying to target you.
1. You Can’t See the Product or Property Being Promoted
Have you recently been researching a product or property, but you can’t seem to get a good picture or schedule a visit?
This is a common sign that the person on the other end of the chat isn’t trying to sell or rent anything but rather trying to set you up for a scam.
From here on, you need to be very careful, and if the other person becomes aggressive, it’s best to walk away altogether.
2. There’s a Time Cap on the Deal
From a psychological perspective, it’s important to understand that scammers will always try to leverage urgency, whether that’s through a promise of exclusivity or a time-sensitive offer.
This is because you’re more likely to make a mistake when thinking under pressure.
So, if the seller you’re dealing with seems to be pushing you to make a snap decision, take a moment to breathe and determine whether the situation is actually a scam.
3. They Require You to Pay Using Unconventional Channels
Most merchants prefer to use conventional payment methods like debit cards and online wallets because these channels provide a layer of security for both sides of the transaction.
Scammers, however, are not interested in creating a safe environment but actually strive for the exact opposite.
So, it’s common for these criminals to only use unconventional payment channels that are hard to trace, refund, or dispute. For instance:
- Cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin and other crypto assets give scammers more flexibility than regular bank transactions;
- PayPal “family and friends” transactions: this type of transaction doesn’t qualify for PayPal’s payment protection, which means you can’t get a refund;
- Gift cards or prepaid cards: it’s very difficult to get refunds for gift cards and prepaid cards because banks don’t pay as much attention to these payment channels, which makes them a prime target for scammers.
4. They Claim They Have Been Scammed Before
It’s common for scammers to behave suspiciously when communicating with you or arranging the payment method.
In many cases, the scammers themselves will claim to have suffered from a fraudulent incident and claim this is causing their weird behavior.
While it’s true that scam victims tend to be more careful, these individuals also prefer to use the safest and most transparent platforms.
So, if you notice suspicious behavior that’s blamed on prior encounters, you may want to avoid transactions with that individual.
5. You’re Asked to Share Bank Details or Payment Information Via Email
Legitimate companies and entrepreneurs use well-known gateways to process their payments.
This is the reason why you would never receive an email requesting bank details, credit card numbers, or any other type of payment information.
The same logic applies to other sensitive information such as social security numbers, account login details, and secret question answers.
6. It’s Difficult to Verify Anything About the Company or Person
Businesses want as much visibility as they can get and the internet is by far the most cost-effective way to get a brand out there.
But, for scammers, attention isn’t necessarily a good thing.
So, if you have difficulty finding anything about the brand, company, or individual you’re interested in, this may be a red flag.
7. The Revenue Model Sounds Suspicious
Every website on the internet is out to make money, whether that’s selling products, ad spots, or something else entirely.
So, if you hear about a project, company, or opportunity with an unsustainable model, it’s probably a scam.
A great example would be a shop that offers new units of the latest retail products from original manufacturers with a constant 90% discount.
8. They Become Infatuated With You Very Quickly
Scammers are also known for targeting individuals who may be in emotionally vulnerable positions. The FTC reported more than 70,000 romance scams in the US in 2022.
One major sign of a potential romance scam is encountering a potential partner that becomes infatuated with you immediately, without getting to know much about you.
This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult positions to be in, which is the reason why it has remained one of the main methods that scammers use to rip people off.
9. You Can’t Have a Quick, Unexpected Video Call
Scammers work in teams, even if they use the same account to speak with you.
So, a great way to test a potential partner’s transparency is to phone unexpectedly and ask for the video to be turned on. If the same person always picks up the phone, this can be a positive indicator.
However, if you can’t ever get a hold of the other person, it may be a red flag. This is especially true if you don’t get a return call or if the person on the other end insists they are too camera shy to even send a picture.
Quick Tips to Avoid Scammers
First, you should learn about the methods that scammers use to take advantage of their victims.
This will help you maintain perspective and guide you if you ever find yourself in a vulnerable position.
After that, you have to understand how you can minimize the risks of being targeted by scammers by. Here are some tips for you:
- Encrypting Your Internet Connection: this protects the information being sent to and from your device, but you need to download a quality VPN to ensure data safety at all times;
- Avoiding Sharing Passwords and Other Credentials: don’t share your password with anyone, including family members and friends, especially not over email and other unsafe channels;
- Only Using Secure Websites: make sure to only use websites that have a security certificate, which often appears as a small padlock next to the URL bar on your browser;
- Monitoring Your Credit and Financial Transactions: scammers start charging your account and opening credit lines as soon as they gain access to your data, so check your credit history and bills for unusual transactions.
Online scams affect millions of people on a global scale and generate billions worth of losses.
There are many types of fraud, so you need to avoid sellers that can’t seem to show you the product they’re promoting, require unconventional payment channels, or try to rush you into a deal.
What’s more, you need to be even more careful when building personal relationships like romances online, as scammers also see this as a great opportunity to take advantage of others.
Fortunately, you can always take additional steps like securing your connection and only accessing safe websites wherever you go online.