This post was written in collaboration with Hippo.co.za
There is a part of me that didn’t want to write this post – mainly because every year I tend to rehash the same advice and share it. However, it seems like I have to because people are still constantly falling victim to the most basic online scams. The rise of Facebook phishing links being shared has made me realise how important it is for me to, once again, remind you that not everything that glitters is gold. My mom, who I consider to have internet smarts, is even guilty of sharing silly Facebook links designed to phish details off you. So, I’m going to share again! If you need a recap on some common South African online scams, I’ve linked a post from way back when, that is still accurate today. For now though, here is how to spot online scams and not get caught by them.
Online scams have a variety of faces and names. You can get scammed purchasing something online, scammed into handing over valuable information and scammed into unknowingly joining a pyramid scheme. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you browse the (not so) dangerous web:
If it sounds too good to be true it probably is
The best scams always find a way to offer you up something you really want. Usually that is money. You’re winning money, someone left you money, you can make money quickly, or there is some sort of prize up for grabs like an incredible trip overseas or make-up for a year or whatever else. It is always something that makes you go
“Wowsa, this is so amazing and so easy. I’m so lucky.”
You’re not. Sorry. You’re being scammed. Scammers used to play on fear with email chains declaring your money was in danger, firing up a mad rush to save your hard-earned greenbacks. But now that we’ve wisened up they’re playing a new tune. When it comes to any promises of money, gifts or prizes, search for the terms and conditions. You know that awful long piece of legal paper no one reads? Well, any legitimate offering will have one set up declaring the company details of the organisation involved. Go through that, Google the company and see what comes up. I say go through it, but usually in these instances you won’t find Ts & Cs because…. SCAM.
They need you to pay a join-up fee or shipping fee or share personal details
Great, you’ve been promised something in the form of cash or a gift, but now you need to pay over some money to have it sent to you or to cover an admin fee… SCAM. The moment you need to spend money or send any sort of personal information, wire your brain to have a red flag go off. If someone left you money why would you need to supply personal information? Surely that would be included in the will? If you won a free holiday why would you need to drive to a venue to listen to a 20-minute presentation before claiming it? Surely you should just get the plane tickets automatically? Scammers are smart but you are too. Ask the difficult questions and keep asking until you get the answers you want.
The get-rich-quick schemes
Every second advertisement online is telling you about how you can work from home and make trillions. Alternatively they’re promising you a new weight-loss solution that will also make you money, or telling you about weird investment policies that are set to grow tenfold in 3 weeks. Stop, scroll up to the top, remember that if it is too good to be true it probably is, and move on. These are mostly forms of dodgy pyramid schemes that you really don’t want to get involved in. Hippo.co.za has a useful post on their website about How to Spot a Pyramid Scheme; give it a read and get clued up!
Falling for Facebook fakes
Scammers have become really smart at finding ways to get information out of you. Facebook is the easiest way to phish for your personal details. There are constantly offers of gift vouchers from your favourite store or ridiculous sports cars that you can apparently win, if you just fill in some info. The easiest way to con you out of your passwords is to publish a truly juicy piece of celeb gossip that you insist on clicking. Be wary of these strange post shares. Take a look at the site BEFORE clicking. Never heard of it? Stay away. Or head to Google and see if you can find it. Is it annoying? Yes. But you know what is more annoying? Getting hacked.
While you might feel like you’ve just turned into a paranoid Polly, sometimes it really is better. Keep your wits about you and you’ll quickly be able to spot the less than savoury folk trawling the internet and ultimately be able to steer clear!