Criminals in cyberspace are becoming more clever in their attempts to steal money. Learn to recognize the most common online scams.

You can start a profitable business from your living room; all it takes is an idea, some money and a computer. Millions of others are doing it right now, and online payment systems have made financial transactions faster than ever with the added benefit of being more secure. The internet connects millions of people every day, which means honest individuals can conduct business quickly and efficiently.

The same is also true for those who commit fraud. Online scams are everywhere and they take many forms. Some are disguised as work at home opportunities, others promise\ you a big chunk of cash as long as you send a small “processing fee.” This article looks at the most common internet scams which are present today, and how to avoid losing hundreds, or even thousands of dollars.

Auction Scams

This is the best way to get your hands on items which would be really hard to find, and they sell for bargain prices. Most people who sell these rare objects are truthful about what they are offering, but some are not. Among other things, victims of this kind of scam will experience the following:

  • Misrepresentation is the oldest trick in the book. You don’t get what you expect. The product may be defective, broken or its value is hugely exaggerated.
  • You bid for an item and pay for it, but it never shows up at your doorstep.
  • Sellers don’t deserve all of the blame. Buyers can, and do pay with bad cheques and stolen credit cards. You collect the money, and then receive a call from the bank saying the cheque has bounced. Guess who will have to pay?

Work at Home Scams

Working on laptop

You have probably come across many of these while surfing on the web. Watch out for ads which promise big profits for doing little or no work. The quote, “You don’t need to sell, and you don’t need a computer!” is not a good sign. If you don’t have a computer how can you expect to do business? The following kinds of so called work at home jobs also deserve a higher degree of skepticism:  

  • Data entry jobs – It sounds really simple doesn’t it? If you’re a good typist why not make money from home filling out forms on the internet? What usually ends up happening is you pay a non-refundable registration fee (usually $30 or $40) and then you get a set of instructions which tell you to place the very same ad in newspapers and online bulletin boards.
  • Medical bills – You are encouraged to pay anywhere from $200 to $400 for top of the line software and a list of clients in your area so you can start your own billing service. The problem is that the “clients” are either not interested or they don’t exist. Doctors process their own bills or outsource this job to bigger companies, never individuals.
  • Home assembly – It sounds like a fun and relaxing way to make money. After paying for a starter kit and parts you begin to build toys or bracelets at home. When you send them back to the company to be resold they’ll say your work is unsatisfactory. They don’t sell anything except for the starter kits, and you’re left with a product which nobody wants to buy.

Even for internet savvy consumers, these scams are too convincing to ignore because they offer a quick profit. The disabled, the elderly and single parents earning a low income are also easy prey for these criminals. They can’t find legitimate employment very easily and therefore fall into these traps more often.

How to Protect Yourself

Animated picture of a man keeping his computer safe.
Animated picture of a man keeping his computer safe.
  • Buy from companies you know and trust, and look for the Better Business Bureau logo when making an online purchase.
  • Never send money to be hired by a company. It should always be the other way around.
  • Be very careful if somebody requests payment by Western Union or MoneyGram. If they give you all kinds of excuses as to why they can’t accept anything else, find another merchant. Sending money through either of those companies is not only irreversible, it’s untraceable. You’ll be out of luck if you pay for something and it never arrives.
  • If you’re bidding on gemstones, antiques or rare collectibles, know the market. If you have no experience dealing with these objects you’re likely to get burned.
  • Remember some good, old-fashioned conventional wisdom. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Always scrutinize buyer/seller feedback on auction websites.

Happy hunting! Be careful and keep your eyes open, but don’t be paranoid.

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