Ask Money: what are common internet scams, and how can I avoid them?

computer man
Illustration: Gabby Wolf

Nowadays, it’s all too common to receive email scams and fake money offers. So, how do you distinguish the legitimate offers from the frauds?

Look out for emails that seem like they’re from your personal bank. Often, these will contain invoices for you to sign.

Once opened, these emails release malware that installs itself and logs your banking information and details. The original sender can then access your account. If you do not recognise an address, do not open any links or attachments.

An even more basic email scam is simply asking the addressee to reply with certain details. Legitimate banks will never ask for personal details, such as your full PIN or password, over email.

The simplest and easiest way to avoid this kind of bank fraud is to call your bank and clarify the legitimacy of suspicious emails.

computer man
Illustration: Gabby Wolf

Another type of scam is based on tech support. These scams are also very popular and somewhat more subtle than a spam email. Often, you’ll find these scams in pop-ups that may or may not open in a new tab. These pop-up messages warn you that Microsoft has detected a security error. To fix the error, you need to call a number or download certain software.

The way tech support scams work is quite clever. Most often, the “tech engineer” will use TeamViewer to gain access to your PC and show you Windows Event Viewer, which displays a log of folders (some of which are marked “warning” and “error”). This is entirely normal, but to the unsuspecting PC user, is seems as if they do indeed have a virus or worm on their computer.

The scammer’s objective is to get you to download or even buy software that purports to aid your computer when it actually infects it and causes damage.

To avoid this common scam, simply do not trust pop-ups from unverified websites or companies that tell you there is a virus or worm on your PC.

I urge anyone with time on their hands to look up Jim Browning on YouTube and watch his interesting and amusing videos. In them, he cleverly confronts tech support scammers and watches their reaction when they realise they’ve been deceived.

A third common scam centres on data entry jobs, which are plentiful and, in most cases, legitimate. Workers are tasked with transferring information found on paper documents to computer system databases. However, there are some scams that ride on the back of data entry jobs, enticing you with the chance to make thousands of pounds.

Chances are that these “opportunities” are just scams. They ask you to spend money on purchasing software that is only produced by the company, and they make it sound like they are offering you a once-in-a-lifetime job. Once you purchase the software, you wait for the cheque to clear so you can start your new job, but the work never materialises. Vague payment structures and passive income opportunities are all signs of dodgy scams and should be avoided.

Whatever you do, make sure to do your research before clicking links or sending anyone your personal data.


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