Unfortunately, the Christmas spirit isn’t always seen at this time of year and as such, online scams can be prevalent throughout the festive season. With many people willing to spend a lot of money on gifts and with the internet being such a huge opportunity for many scammers to take advantage of this, there are more and more scams circulating the internet each day. Even the most IT savvy of people might come a cropper to these sophisticated scams. Here, we look at just some you might see on the internet and how to avoid them or report them:
SCAM #1 – Suspicious E-cards: If you receive a Christmas digital card from someone you don’t know, you might want to be wary. Some scammers target people by sending out malware hidden in e-cards. The recipient then opens the e card and their PC is flooded with viruses, many aimed at attacking and retrieving personal details such as names, addresses, passwords and bank details. If you are not sure about a card, do not open it!
SCAM #2 – Fraudulent Prizes: If you receive an email telling you that you have won a top prize, but you don’t even remember entering a competition, then be wary. It could be a scam. Hackers like to get to you by promising a prize and then either asking for your details in order to receive it, or by asking for a small sum of money to ‘release’ the prize. If you come across a crime like this in South Africa, there are a few ways you can report it. The Crimeline website is a handy website you can visit if you do want to report anything.
SCAM #3 – Social Media Accounts: Be careful when it comes to people trying to befriend you on social media that you don’t know. Many sophisticated scams are being carried out via social media, and many people fall for it. Other scammers post on places like Facebook Marketplace. They offer a very attractive product for a very attractive price, which then is never delivered, but the money has already been taken. To avoid this, only shop with reputable consumers or only pay for the item in person on receipt of it.
SCAM #4– Charities: Sadly, this is the time of the year when many scammers pretend to be charities asking for money. People who are generous and give their hard earned cash to charities at this time of year believe that their cash is going to good causes, but in reality, the money is going to scammers and it is part of a bigger scamming network. To avoid this, you should only communicate directly with charities and you should not give money to anyone at your door, or who befriends you online and asks for money.
SCAM #5 – Loan companies: Some scammers pretend they are loan companies and advertise a ‘great deal’ which can be unlocked with just a small up-front cost *hint – alarm bells should be ringing at this point*. Any reputable loan company will NEVER ask for an upfront cost. If this happens to you, the advice from online lending experts is to contact your bank immediately to ensure that your accounts are secure. If you have lost access to funds in your account, you will need to notify your bank’s fraud department as soon as possible. They also say to be sure to check your passwords on your computer, online services, and bank accounts. It can be a wise idea to review your account history and change your password to something that is more secure. If you use the same password for many different services, try and change it up a bit. As difficult as this may be, it will make you much harder to target as any scammer will not be able to get into all your other accounts if they manage to infiltrate one.
IN SHORT… If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t trust messages from people you don’t know, and don’t click any links hidden in emails or in text messages. If you buy something online, it is a good idea to use a credit card, as this can offer protection. However, you should remember to pay the credit card balance off in full each month.