How to Check if Something is an Online Scam

How to Check if Something is an Online Scam

While there's no failsafe way to recognize a scam, it never hurts to be vigilant. You can protect yourself when you know what to look out for. In this article, we offer tips on how to recognize that someone might be trying to scam you. If someone suspicious contacts you, for example, ask them for their first and last name. Then, use Checkpeople.com or some equivalent to run a background check on them.

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Common Red Flags

A common warning sign is when a stranger contacts you unexpectedly with a really great offer, like a super cheap holiday. You might feel you're not dealing with a real business; the company hasn't listed a mailing address. You've been invited to pay through an unusual method, for example, by Western Union or iTunes vouchers. Being asked to transfer money quickly or make your mind up about something fast is highly suspicious.

Always ask for written confirmation of any agreement you've reached and never give personal data like a PIN or a password away.

Keep in mind that paying too much for something is not the same as a scam. Scams typically involve fraud or theft.

If you have been scammed or believe you've spotted a scam, report it right away.

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How to Protect Yourself

To protect yourself from falling prey to an online scam, never download anything or click on a link sent by someone you don't trust. An example is getting an email with a weird address. These usually conceal malware or viruses. Updated antivirus software will give you extra protection.

Use Conventional Payment Methods

Pay by bank transfer or debit or credit card. If things go wrong, you have additional protection. You can get your money back if someone has scammed you.

Scammers have a very difficult time accessing accounts that have been secured via two-factor authentication. Unsplash

Be Careful With Personal Data

Some scammers will try to get your Social Security number, street address, or other personal information to hack into one of your profiles or accounts. Legitimate sites will rarely ask for these details without an obvious reason.

Recognize a Fake Online Shop

Spend some time checking every site you're planning on using for the first time. Begin with the terms and conditions. We know this is pesky and time-consuming, but trying to recover from a scam would be even more so, trust us on this. Having nothing but a PO box is a red flag. The business should have a proper address, including a street name and number.

Reading reviews about the company might help. We say might because they could be fake. To minimize that risk, look for reviews on different sites, not just that of the company itself. A padlock in the browser's address bar is no proof you're purchasing from a real business.

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Run a background check on yourself to see if someone has shared your details online. When a site is hacked, your login details can become public. This heightens the risk of them being used in a scam.

Understand How Your Bank Works

Find out what security questions your bank would ask if they contact you. Secure any online banking accounts with strong and unique passwords. Use a password manager if you won't be able to remember them.

Opt for Two-factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication is a second step in a login that some sites will let you use. It's a good idea to use it across all accounts, including Gmail, social networks, Outlook, and iTunes. Scammers have a very difficult time accessing accounts that have been secured via two-factor authentication.

On a Final Note: Coronavirus Scams

Sadly, the pandemic has raged on longer than we hoped, and its aftermath will be prolonged as well. Scams related to it have been on the rise for a while. These include advertising medical equipment or masks at high prices, people sending texts or emails pretending to be from state service, shady businesses selling life insurance, and more. Needless to say, you should report these.

(Disclaimer: The article is sponsored, and hence promotes some commercial links.)

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