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Online Scams and Frauds You Should Be Aware Of

Updated on August 2, 2017

The advancement in information technology has made it easy for people to communicate, find information they need, buy products and request for services online without the need of visiting the particular shop.

Despite the benefits the Internet has accorded us, there are still risk associated with doing anything online especially when it comes to odering for a product. There are security issues that arise as to how a person is safe when he/she used his/her debit/credit card.

Thereby, it is necessary to know several scams (people attempting to 'steal' money from you online) that exist online so that you can be armed when you come across them. This will ensure you will not fall as a victim to these online scams.

a) Lottery Scam

What if you win a lottery worth millions of dollars? You will be one lucky guy. There will be a long list of goods to purchase, which tourist destination to end at before the end of the year, and to whom and who to throw hundreds of dollars at. But, watch out! Be cautious! It might be a scam.

When you receive a letter or email saying you won a huge sum of money, it might be a scam. If you look closely at the name of the lottery company indicated in the letter or email and search if the company exists, you will find it does. Therefore, it means it’s genuine, right? Not so! Scammers know you will search to know whether the company is real, so remember they’ve done their homework.

The email or letter will ask you to respond quickly and keep the information of the winning confidential. This is in order to avoid giving you ample time to seek advice or to follow up.

Here is the catch: Before the money is deposited in your bank account, you will be required to go through various processes which require you to pay certain fees. These processing fees can amount to thousands of dollars. You will be told the fees cover costs such as courier charges, insurance costs and taxes.

You might also be asked to provide your personal and bank information. If you do provide, they will use the information to steal that you have in your bank account. Therefore, don’t fall as a victim of this scam because in your statement of excitement, to have won the lottery, you forgot to remember you never entered lottery from this company or never entered any lottery for that matter.

b) Online Dating Scam

There have been success stories of people who have met in dating sites and in months to years’ time got married, and are living happily together as couples. But, it seems there are people who take advantage of people looking for love in these dating sites for their own selfish desires, thereby deceiving the members of these dating sites not only out of their money but also hurting them along.

You should be careful with the person you’re communicating with on a dating site. Take time to get to know the person even if takes time. Be cautious if a person tells you he has fallen in love with you within a short period of time. You never know, the person might be a scammer.

Nevertheless, there are instances when the scammer takes time to ensure he builds your trust and faith in him. He might even send you small gifts to entice you to believing he’s in love with you.

When the scammer knows he has gained your trust in him that his feelings for you are real, he will request it’s time to communicate through email. In some cases a person might have good reasons to shift to email communication and its okay; but there are instances it’s a scammer who is ready to suck money out of you.

Once you start communicating through email for some time, problems begin to emerge in the scammer’s life. They will include among others: please send me money I was involved in an accident, my mother is sick, I have accumulated a lot of debts and so on. You send thinking he’s genuine. Others might go as far as to ask you for information related to your debit or credit card stating they need it for various reasons which sound plausible.

Always be cautious when dating online because in a basket full of apples, there are rotten ones among the good ones.

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c) Online Disaster Relief Scams

Humans by nature are always willing to help people who have been affected by a disaster such as flood or earthquake. You have the intention to help however little the donation is to the charitable organization involved in offering aid services to the affected.

Without your knowledge, a scammer takes advantage of your ‘generous heart.’ You receive an email from a supposedly NGO or charitable organization. In the email an explanation is given about a disaster which has strike a region and they are doing all they can to help the affected in whatever way they can. So, they need your donation in order to offer such services to the affected. At the end of the email, a link is provided which when you click directs you to the main website of the NGO. From there, you have the option of donating money from the options given or so.

You’ll be asked to make the donation using either credit or debit card. This means you’ll have to provide your bank information such as account number. When you provide it, it allows them to have direct access to your account. And, they can use your account to do whatever they want. At the end not only will you lose a lot of money but also find yourself in a pile of other problems.

If you want to donate, go directly to the website of a legitimate charitable organization or contact them directly. If you are unsure whether a certain charitable organization is legitimate, do some homework to determine whether it’s genuine.

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d) Sales Sites Scam

There is an item you want to sell online. Therefore, you post an ad or list the item on a sales site.

As you browse though the messages in your email days later to see if there is a buyer who was interested in the item, with a smile on your face you count yourself lucky. The buyer informs you that he’ll offer to pay for the item more than the price you listed. The buyer, who in this case is a scammer, will provide a reason for such an overpayment such as international charges. You will be required by the supposedly buyer to send him the item plus the difference in cash (the extra charges).

You cash in the money order you’ve received because you scrutinized the money order and found it to be genuine. Several days later your bank contacts you and informs you that the money order is not genuine and you’re required to pay the full amount indicated on the money order immediately.

Was the money order fake? No! It was genuine. The problem is: it was stolen, and the bank didn’t authorize the transaction. Not only have you lost the item but also the money.

In other cases, you might come across an ad of an item that looks expensive but its price is very low. Now, who wouldn’t want to buy an expensive item at a low price? What you don’t know, you’ve been trapped and you’re on your way to losing your hard-earned money. You might receive the item but it’s not what you expected.

When shopping online, ensure you take extra caution before you purchase a product or an item.

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e) Free Trial Scams

You are browsing on the Internet when a new window pops-up containing an advert of a product. The product is offered free for a specific time period (sometimes it’s not indicated), and if you are satisfied with it you can purchase the product. However, before you get the free trial product, there is one thing you need to do: pay for postage and packaging (shipping & handling).

This isn’t the end of the story. Unknowingly, when you enter your card details in order to pay for P&P or S&S, you are in fact signing up to be charged monthly for the payment of the product. This is done through continuous payment authority (CPA). CPA is used by people to make payments which are regular in nature such as monthly payments to a particular membership. Through CPA, businesses are able to withdraw cash from their customers on a monthly basis. In case of scammers, they withdraw the money from the victim without him/her knowing it.

The catch is here: the terms and conditions are too lengthy too read all of them at one go. In that lengthy terms and conditions, the high price of the product and the nature of the contract (cancellation notice) are hidden such that it becomes difficult for a person to notice them.

Next time when a window pops-up while on the Net, read the terms and conditions to know what you’re signing up to, so that when you’re charged extra money you know too well why. Or, all together ignore them. Not everything is truly freely.

f) Fake Software Download Scam

You are browsing the Internet, then a new window pops-up informing you that your computer is infected with viruses, worms and other infections. It informs you that your computer needs to be cleaned before it crashes or interferes with the normal working of your computer.

Those who receive the warning, all of a sudden rush to download the software not realizing it’s a scam. Before you download the anti-virus software which appears to be legitimate but is not, you are required to make payment before you’re given access to download it. At times it’s free but the consequences are dire.

In both cases, whether it’s free or the program costs money, your computer will be infected with viruses and worms and other infections. When your computer is infected, there is a person smiling widely because he can have access to your private information in the computer.

Ensure you protect your computer against infections by buying genuine anti-virus software from reputable or legitimate websites (companies). Never trust pop-up windows. They may be a scam; always highly they might be so.

g) Nigerian Scam Will 417

Nigeria scam has been placed according to published reports as the fourth largest industry in Nigeria.

It is the most successful internet scam to date where victims have lost thousands of money through it.

The most common Nigerian scam is “Will 419 scam” Other scams are Fake Lottery 419, Romance 419, Employment 419, etc.

How the Scam Works

The scammer sends the same unsolicited message to various email addresses in the hope he/she will receive a response from the targeted victims, if not all, some.

With this scam, the message is about an inheritance left to them by their father or close relative who died as a result of civil war, disease or other causes and the money was hidden/saved in a foreign account and he/she is in a refuge camp outside his/her country and cannot be able to access the money. The reason being they don’t have a bank account or national identity card and such. Could you be kind enough to help him/her get the money out of the country it is in and into your bank account? He or she promises you will receive about forty percent of the share (money) since; the money in question is a huge sum in its millions.

The only sign to show such an email is a scam is that you will keep paying a series of fees and charges before the money is finally released, and placed into your bank account. There will be a delay which prevent the money from being sent and requires further payment to be made, citing the payment is the last to overcome a particular obstacle which is not.

They might present you with fake cheques and ask you to return a share of the portion. They would also request you to provide personal or business information such as your bank account number, copies of your identity card or passport, driving license, phone and fax number and credit card details.

The primarily reason for requesting for account number of the target victim is not so they can plunder it but a sign they have hooked another victim. It is also a case of identity theft.

One should not that the original scammer of the initial email is not alone but has a group of others who pretend to be doctors, lawyers who in turn do their part of persuading you, showing official documents that look genuine but are not.

Most of 419 emails originate from Nigeria, though they can derive from other countries especially in West African countries. It does not matter where the messages are coming from whether in or outside the country. The Nigerian High Commission and Central Bank of Nigeria warn people not to engage or undertake business in Nigeria without first seeking advice from them. Then, they will be provided with information on how to safely conduct business in Nigeria.

There have been cases where victims who were lured in Nigeria had worse things happen to them – tortured, threatened and murdered.

What to do if you Receive a Nigerian Scam

The rule of thumb, the only way to escape from the allure of this scam is just to ignore the message and delete it.

If you receive an unsolicited email from someone you don’t know seeking you to receive a huge sum of money or fortune, do not believe nor respond to it.
Do not go ahead and contact the person especially giving out your personal or business information such as business or bank account information.

You should never pay any fees and never accept a cheque from a stranger neither return a portion of the cheque.

The sad thing is that if you have lost the money through this scam, there is little that can be done by either an agency dealing with frauds or you to get this money back. This is because scammers send their emails from cyber cafes. Although there have been cases of scammers of this type who have been arrested and prosecuted. You can file a complaint if you have lost your money by contacting the Nigerian High and Financial Commission (EFCC), their website,, or, with Central Bank of Nigeria anti-corruption unit, their email address,


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    • Ben716 profile image

      Alianess Benny Njuguna 2 years ago from Kenya

      @ peachrple, thank you. I will include surveys, freelance and the most famous one Nigerian scam in the next article which will be linked to this one.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      voted up, you should include surveys and freelance job scams too.

    • Ben716 profile image

      Alianess Benny Njuguna 2 years ago from Kenya

      @ Mark Johann, that's true. The rate of people cheated out of their money has been increasing at a high rate. One needs to be careful while on the net.

    • Mark Johann profile image

      Mark Johann 2 years ago from Italy

      This is very useful for all net users this days. Scams on the internet is increasing nowadays.