“You have inherited $1,000,000 from a government institution in Nigeria and your personal details are required so that the transfer may be completed. You must act now.” I’m sure all of us have received this email at least a dozen times. Or how about the one where you receive a mailer (or text message) stating that your email address (or phone number) has won a huge sum of money in an overseas lottery and all the so-called “contest officials” need is a small amount of money to release your winnings?
While the boom of the internet has been beneficial in many ways, it is also made us extremely vulnerable to a world of manipulative and unscrupulous elements. And no matter how careful you think you are, it isn’t long before you find yourself the victim of some sort of con or financial theft.
Now, this is not to say that there aren’t any legitimate online businesses. From setting up websites to writing your own blog, there are many ways for retirees, part-timers, the disabled and even the illiterate to earn decent money over the internet. Service platforms such as Freelancer, Odesk, and others have created and offer good avenues for regular income. Likewise, well-established affiliate programs offer great opportunity to earn money online.
Yet, the web is full of predators just waiting to scam you out of your hard-earned money. One of the main reasons for this, of course, is the complete anonymity afforded by the internet. Another is the naivety of the people. Simply saying, “That would never happen to me” is not enough, because, the reality is that we are all vulnerable in some way or the other. If you’re not careful enough, you could find yourself the unfortunate victim of an internet scam.
Awareness is thus the key. Remember that old adage, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”? No one wants to just give out money. There’s always a catch. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers rely on an inherent quality we all have – greed (not called one of the seven deadly sins for nothing). They exploit desperate situations, earn your trust and take undue advantage.
Some scammers rely on your generosity of heart. Also called the “stranded traveler” phishing scam, this is where you receive an email from a friend saying that he/she was mugged while travelling overseas and lost all his/her credit cards and money. There is an urgent plea requesting you to wire some money to pay for the hotel and the trip back home. Always be wary of such requests and confirm with your friend or his/her family the veracity of such claims. You would be surprised to learn that over 3 million people in the UK fall victim to such rip-offs each year.
But aren’t we partly to blame for falling for these hare-brained schemes? Are we just being caught off-guard? Or our curiosity and our need for making easy money without doing any of the hard work getting the better of us? Whatever the reason, just remember that the next time you receive an email offering you money, don’t even spend time reading it, just hit that delete button as fast as you can.