10 SCAM WARNING SIGNS
1. The Offer Seems Too Good to be True
If it seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is. Examples include money left to you from an unknown relative, being awarded a loan or grant you haven’t applied for, winning a lottery you’ve never entered, and being selected to receive a share in funds in return for using your bank account.
If an offer looks too good to be true use Google to search for it. Add scam to the end, such as UK lottery scam, or (Name of Company) grant scam. If it is a scam, someone will almost certainly have written about it somewhere, unless you’re the first victim of a new scam.
2. They Want Private Information
Many scams involve getting hold of your bank account details. Scams involving identity theft also seek personal information. A common scenario is an email supposedly from a bank asking you to click on a link to confirm your bank details and password. If you think the email has really come from your bank, pick up the phone and confirm this with them, but banks don’t do this.
Never click on links or attachments in emails from people you don’t know or you risk your computer becoming infected by viruses, trojans, or other malware.
3. Grammatical Errors
Scammers may be intelligent, but they are not always well educated and don’t always have English as their first language, and their grammatical errors can give them away. For example, an email from a law firm or bank should be free of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes (especially if they’re repeated). If the correspondence you receive is full of errors, be very suspicious.
4. Requests for Fees
Scammers will want advance payments or fees to clear the funds or complete their offer. It will never be clear exactly what the fees are for, but the scammer will tell you they have to be paid or the money can’t be released. They will often adopt an approach that suggests they are only trying to help you out. Never pay fees or taxes in advance unless you are 100% certain it is not a scam.
5. Suspicious Email Domains
Look carefully at the domain name of every contact you make through the suspected scammer. For example, you receive an email from a law firm saying you’ve inherited a large sum of money from a relative you’ve never heard of. Let’s call the firm Mitchell and Smith. If the email is fromAccounts@Mitchellandsmith.com, it may be genuine, but an email fromMitchellandsmith.Accounts@aim.com is probably from a scammer.
Suspect any free email address such as hotmail, aim, yahoo, gmail. Some genuine businesses do use free emails, but most do not. Other domain names not connected with the name of the company are also suspicious. Use a Whois lookup such as domaintools.com for the domain name (the part of the name after the @ sign) to find out who owns it, and see if anything about it looks suspicious. Do this for the company’s website too, if they have one.
Scammers are guilt-free sociopaths who have fun ripping people off, and their emails can sometimes reveal this. If you suspect a scam, look carefully at the names they use for the company and individuals and see if there is anything funny or odd about them. Even if the names look genuine check them out using the white pages online (or yellow pages for companies). Many genuine business people also have a presence on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Google the name of the person and the company, and all the email addresses, and do a search on Google Blog Watch. If you can’t find any reference anywhere to your contacts, they’re probably fictional.
Contact details can also be a sign of a scam. For example, if the only way you can reach the person is via a mobile phone rather than a landline, it could be a scam.
7. Suspicious or No Addresses
Fraudsters do not want their victims to know where they live. If there is no physical address and your contacts won’t give you one, it’s a sure bet you’re being scammed. If there is a physical address, check it out using the Internet or Google Earth and see if it’s a real address.
Genuine businesses have physical addresses, and they also need to be registered, so if the business is genuine you should be able to find an address.
8. Request for Access to Your Computer
A common scam is a phone call from someone claiming to be a technician who has detected problems with your computer and would like to fix them for you free. Never give anyone remote access to your computer unless you have contacted them and are 100% certain they are not a scammer.
9. Untraceable Payment Method
Scammers prefer payment methods that are untraceable, such as Western Union. Be very suspicious, as a genuine business will have genuine banking details. But don’t pay anyone advance fees by any means if you have the slightest suspicion it is a scam.
Scammers will often put pressure on their victims and urge them to pay immediately or lose the opportunity. A genuine business making a genuine offer will never pressure you to act immediately.
The best way to avoid being the victim of a scam is to be aware of the warning signs and heed them. Also be aware that scammers understand psychology and know how to manipulate people into doing what they want.