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5 online scam red flags - signs you’re dealing with scammers
Mon, 21st Mar 2022
FYI, this story is more than a year old

No one — gamer, cryptocurrency investor, or online shopper — is safe from scammers. But no matter who the victim is or how sophisticated the scheme may be, there is always a way to sniff out fraud before it's too late, according to Kaspersky.

Due to global connectivity, it is now more dangerous on the internet as scammers from all around the world are able to use a variety of scams and tools to target unsuspecting people online.

A discerning and informed public can be the best defence against online scams. Kaspersky highlights 5 online scam red flags that the public need to look out for to better protect themselves against scammers.

Five signs you're dealing with scammers:

1. Stick or carrot
Scammers often play on greed or fear. In the first case, they promise a potential victim the moon and the stars — for example, a large government payout or free cryptocurrency. The second involves intimidation, such as a threat to send a video of the victim watching porn to all of their contacts or to ruin the reputation of their company's website.

In both cases, cybercriminals are trying to short-circuit their victim's ability to respond rationally. If, after reading such an e-mail, you feel inclined to do exactly what the sender asks (follow a link, send money, call a number, etc.), that's actually a warning sign.

"Take a deep breath and read the message again. Most likely, you'll see it for what it is — a trick," Kaspersky says.

2. Ticking clock
If emotionally charged situations can cause people to lose the power of critical thinking, then being in a hurry only heightens the problem. Scammers exploit that as well, for example by setting tight deadlines. If a message says you have only a couple of days, hours, or even minutes to claim a prize or buy sought-after equipment before it sells out, again, it's probably a scam.

3. Amateurish design
Obvious errors in the message are another red flag, Kaspersky says. Some may be intentional misspellings or substitution of letters with similar-looking numbers or optical counterparts from other alphabets so as to fool spam filters. In some cases, the sender might simply be illiterate, which is not uncommon among scammers, as opposed to employees of respectable organisations.

"Whatever the reason for the typos, promises of “0ne ilIion d0llars” are a sure sign of danger," Kaspersky says.

4. Searching the database
When a potential victim goes to a fraudulent website from an e-mail or chat message, the scammers usually try to draw them in through a series of simple tasks. They might involve taking a short survey or selecting a number of boxes supposedly containing prizes, for example.

Quite often, the victim is shown an animation supposedly indicating a database search (for their prizewinning status, for example) or asked to fill out a form. Sometimes they might be invited to read (fake) reviews or comments from “past winners.”

"More recently, we've seen chats with a bot posing as a lawyer, consultant, or support employee," Kaspersky says.

"Regardless of the details, the overall purpose is simple and clear: Getting the person to invest a bit of time and effort keeps them on the page, and the more invested they feel, the less likely they are to close the page when it asks for payment, which it certainly will. Feel like a website promising a big payday is playing for time? Probably not a good sign," the company explains.

5. Small fee
According to Kaspersky, another favourite trick after hooking a victim is to request a small fee, a transfer for card verification purposes or payment for registration in some database. Without it, the scammers insist, it will not be possible to receive the promised reward.

"The asked-for amount is usually quite small and insignificant against the prospect of untold riches, and may even come with an assurance of payback at a later date," the company says.

"This fee is the first thing that gets stolen, of course. There will be no prize, only the likelihood of losing even more after sharing credit card details with the scammers."

Kaspersky says cybercriminals are constantly inventing new ways to monetise a person's trust and weaknesses.

"Simply by looking for these five red flags, you can avoid falling prey to most scams," it says.

"We will, of course, continue to keep you posted on how to protect yourself, your data, and your money from intruders."