Don’t Fall Victim to these Seven Common Online Scams

The internet is an excellent resource for getting information, sharing opinions and being entertained. However dishonest methods and unscrupulous operators abound as well. Here is a list of the most common and harmful of online scams to watch for and avoid. Please do not fall victim to these.

1. Phishing scam

This is one of the most recurrent online scams and comes in many versions. It goes something like this… I get an email which claims to be a security alert from one of my accounts. To make the email convincing the scammer uses the impersonated company’s colors and logos, along with formal language. Within the email there is a (fake) link which I must click to “verify” my information securely. If I click on that link and type in all my account information, it goes straight to the scammer. With that info the scammer can get full control of my online account, while locking me out. If I gave my bank info, my account is promptly wiped clean. Another outcome can be that my identity is stolen, and some social media troll is using my name.

2. Advance fee scam

I get a congratulatory notification about having won the lottery or some such reward. Since I don’t remember buying a lottery ticket or participating in a contest, the message clarifies that my email address was referred, or that I was automatically enrolled as part of some promotion. Anyhow, now I must pay a small advance processing fee to cover the costs of the bank transfers.

There are many variations of the advance fee scam including the Nigerian royalty scam and the 419 scam wherein the scammer wants help with transferring a large sum of money. The recipient is asked to pay the transaction fee in advance in exchange for an unrealistic percentage. It is surprising to find how many people fall for this.

3. Make money from home scam

I get an email with an offer to be a part of a very successful and rapidly expanding business. The email informs that I can make hundreds of dollars per day doing very simple stuff. Before I can capitalize on the opportunity however, I must pay the small initial cost for training and materials. Alternatively the scammer asks for my bank details so that they can “verify” the account wherein my earnings would be paid. Another version of this is a pyramid scheme or direct marketing scheme where I am asked to buy a product before selling it on to others. As soon as the payment is made the scammer becomes scarce and the money is lost.

4. Malware

I receive a seemingly harmless email. The sender impersonates a bank, insurance company, recruitment agency, an online greeting card service or even a government agency. This seemingly legitimate email has a seemingly harmless attachment which requires my urgent attention. In my ignorance and with the best of intentions I open the attachment. That attachment is in fact a piece of malware very well disguised as a document. The moment it is opened, it takes control of the computer and starts doing one or more of the following:

  • Starts monitoring all activity, looking for bank details
  • Sends all browser stored passwords to the scammer
  • Sends malware to other people from the infected computer
  • Turns the computer into an automated bot, along with others to coordinate a DDOS attack
  • Slows down the system considerably

5. Ransomware

One variant of malware is ransomware. Instead of invisibly infecting a computer ransomware locks the system, demanding the user to pay to regain access. Some ransomware is persistent. Since it sits in the root directory, rebooting the system does not help. The best way to avoid ransomware and other malware is to be cautious when clicking on email attachments. Always ensure before opening an attachment that the email is from a trusted sender.

6. Fake news and misinformation

I receive an email with an inside tip about a stock or some other investment. The information is known to a rare few people and is highly time sensitive. I could earn a lot of money in a short time, but only if I invest quickly. Such emails are meant to misguide potential investors and to illegally boost the price of a particular stock or investment instrument. Such “tips” are also spread using social media posts and mobile apps. Many other types of fake news are propagated with nauseating frequency to unduly influence consumers’ behavior one way or the other.

7. Scareware

I never faced any problems with my computer in years. Recently I followed a recommendation from someone seemingly well-informed, and tried out a new antivirus. I was shocked at how many viruses inside my computer were detected and quarantined right after I installed the free trial antivirus. The trial version software also started telling me that there are hundreds more viruses out there, each one more dangerous than the next, and even nastier stuff than viruses. The creators of that software wanted me to believe that the only way to truly protect my data and myself was to buy their full (paid) version! That is how scareware works; it tries to scare us into paying for something we don’t really need.

We hope that these examples will help you identify a scam in case you encounter them. For more examples of common online scams related to money transfer, visit our Consumer Protection page at

Ria uses the best-in-class security measures in keeping your money safe when you send money online with us. #TryRia today!