Online scamsters have come up with ingenious ways over the years to make you part with your hard earned money. You think you know their way and won’t fall for them? Well, you will be surprised to know that several well-educated, and Internet savvy people from all strata of society have been victims of such cyber crimes. These scams are as sophisticated as they can get, and so accurate that you will be beguiled into believing them. While you may shrug off the offer for free money and a huge estate in some far-flung country, how will you ignore the plea for help from your very dear friend or ignore the warning from your bank to submit the missing details or the email from PayPal asking you to verify your account to continue using the service? And it only gets better. We have listed here five such scams that have created quite a stir in the Internet world. 

I want to share my inheritance with you 
This Nigerian scam, at times also referred to as the 419 scam, is one the oldest scams around in the web world. The numeral 419 refers to the penal code pertaining to fraud in Nigeria. It’s one scam that has successfully fooled several thousand people around the world, their socio-economic background notwithstanding. The modus-operandi is very simple, you will receive an email from someone who claims to have inherited huge sums of money and is looking for a business partner who can help them invest the amount in his/her country. For doing so you will receive 10 percent advance and further share in the profits. Of course, to facilitate the same you will have to share your bank account details. In some cases, certain amount will be credited to your account to gain your confidence and then you will be asked to pay certain amount, citing some reason like processing fees to transfer the promised sum to your account. The email is usually from a widow or a daughter of a slain Nigerian political activist and the family is now trying to escape the country for the fear of the authorities and therefore, seek your help to secure their future.

Here take my money...

Here, take my money…

Over the years, there have been variations in the content of the email, but the intent is very much the same. These mails have varied from ones offering gold, work-from-home opportunities, lottery scam, philanthropist offering money to the needy, romance scams etc. Nigerian scams have fooled people across several countries and billions of dollars have been lost. There also have been incidents of victims being kidnapped and in some cases, murdered. And if you think that the emails are actually originating from the countries claimed in the email, then you are sadly mistaken, as they could very well originate from your own backyard. Indian police have arrested several Nigerian nationals from cities across India for their involvement in online scam. The list of victims duped is quite impressive and includes doctors, police personnel, models, young professionals, amongst others. 

Please help, I am stranded

While the Nigerian scam emails are easier to ignore, how will you ignore the plea for help from a friend? You will get an email from your friends legit email id (their email account has been hacked) stating that they have been mugged of all their belongings and have no money on them and stranded usually in a foreign locale. The email will persuade you to not treat it as a joke and impress upon you the gravity of the situation and urge you provide help. It will provide you with the name, contact details and bank account number of a person who has agreed to help them. You will be asked to transfer certain amount to their bank account. And since the email is coming from your friend, you could be tempted to help them out. But, of course, there are many giveaways, to begin with the language used to write the email. Every individual has a certain style of writing; it could be formal or using slang, favouring certain font, and even the signature. Most importantly, if you are aware that your friend is very much in town, then you will simply ignore it as a joke and if you aren’t aware, then you could easily call them up to find out their whereabouts. And, of course, thanks to social networking, it’s easy to know the whereabouts of those you are connected with.

Oh dear, poor chap...

Oh dear, poor chap…

While the scam hasn’t been that successful, there have been a few who have fallen prey, especially the older folks.  However, with friends it’s easy to find out whether it’s a hoax, but ascertaining truth gets a little difficult if it happens to be an email from an acquaintance. For instance, I received an email a couple of years ago from an individual I was acquainted with via work, and was aware that he frequently took business trips abroad. So when the email landed in my inbox, for a minute or two I believed it was genuine. What stopped me was the obvious thought of why would the said person contact me as opposed to his family, friends or even close business associates. Even after having ignored the email, I had niggling doubts that were cleared only after receiving an email from the said person assuring that he wasn’t in trouble and that his email account had been compromised. 

Verify your account details 
Thanks to Internet banking, scamsters discovered another avenue to directly reach the pockets of their unsuspecting victims, and it’s also easier one with a higher rate of success. All they have to do is replicate the homepage of your bank or a payment gateway and the victim willingly parts away with sensitive information pertaining to their account. So how does it work? You will get an email supposedly from your bank, or say a payment gateway like Paypal, asking you to ‘verify the details of your account’ or something like ‘Act now, or your account will be deactivated’ or something as serious as ‘your account has been breached’. Of course, the latter two will cause you to panic and you are more likely to act immediately. The email will contain a link; clicking on it will take you to the page of your bank or payment gateway and you will be quite easily fooled as the page will look deceptively similar to the original one. Once here, you will be required to fill in details related to your account, including the account number, password and other sensitive personal information like your birthday, address etc. When the miscreants get hold of your account details, they will siphon off with all your money.

Your account is in trouble

Your account is in trouble

Many people have fallen prey to this scam over the years and there isn’t much that can be done to recover your money. The only way to safeguard oneself is by not falling for such emails. After a number of such cases were reported, all the major banks have taken precautionary measure to inform their customers that they don’t solicit such information from customers online. People fall for it because the email looks genuine, and so do the subsequent pages that you are directed to. How do you tell that it’s a trap? Like they say, check for https in the address and also the padlock symbol that signifies that the site is secure. And if you are plain curious, then go ahead and fill-in some random details; even if you key in alphabets in account number field, it will still accept it. This is something that the genuine sites won’t accept.

Congratulations, you have won £500, 000
Yes, this email wants you to believe that you have a won mind-boggling sum of money courtesy an online lottery that picked up email accounts at random. Well, if that were the case, then more than half of world’s population would turn into billionaires overnight. They use names of companies like Coca Cola, HSBC Bank UK, Microsoft, Lotto Promo, Mega Lottery, BOL-Gmail etc. The email will ask you to contact the official agent whose details will be mentioned on the email and, of course, it will advise you to keep the details of your windfall a secret. This for your own good, so as to prevent hackers from gaining access to your account and use the details to claim the prize money. The email will request information like your name, address, bank account details etc. if you reply to the email, then you will be contacted for more details like copy of your driver’s license, passport etc. to prove your identity,

Felling lucky? Don't get your hopes so high

Felling lucky? Don't get your hopes so high

Needless to say, if you provide all the said details, then you make way for them to steal your identity. Later, you will be asked for an advance fee to facilitate the transfer of your winnings to your bank account. Some of them might even provide with details of a bank (a fake one), with whom you can open an account and as a requirement, you will have to deposit some amount. And if you end up depositing the amount in the fake bank or pay them the advance fee, then that’s the last you will ever see or hear of it. While winning an online lottery via lucky draw may seem reasonably legit, unfortunately, it’s just one of the many tools employed by the scammers to entice the gullible victims with offer they find just too good to refuse.

Curious? Click the link
This particular scam, though relatively harmless in most cases, is actually quite widespread and more on the social networking sites than on email. It appears in different forms on different platforms. The recent one doing the rounds is the one on Skype, which sends out message like “lol is this your new profile pic?” to the victim and the message contains a link; clicking on it will prompt you to download a zip file, which then infects your PC with a malware that will grant complete access of your PC to the hacker. In some cases, it also took form of ransomware, which essentially restricts access to the machine and the individual whose machine has been compromised will have to pay a ransom to the creator of the malware in order to gain back access.

Click at your own risk

Click at your own risk

In fact, scamsters employ this trick by spreading links about scandalous topics that are bound to piqué curiosity, as they know that it’s the sure shot way to make people click on the links. Suddenly, you will get an email or your Facebook wall will reflect a message from your friend, something to the effect of ‘OMG! What are you doing in this video?’ or something like ‘This is what happened to his Ex-Girlfriend and ex-girlfriend revenge’. Clicking on the link will take you to a survey that you will have to fill. But even if you skip that after realising your folly, the damage is done, because by then you would have spammed your friends. Scamsters have also used deaths of Steve Jobs and Osama Bin Laden to spread spam. While in case of Steve Jobs, they spread the message that the company was giving away 1000 limited edition iPad 2s to commemorate Steve Jobs, and in the latter’s case, there was a link doing the rounds that claimed to provide access to exclusive banned video footage of Osama Bin Laden being killed.     

Cover Image: Getty Images

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