We've all come across content that seems to good to be true in our Web surfing travels. How can you be sure what you're looking at is the real deal?
If you're concerned about your safety on the Web (and who isn't), then you'll want to learn how to spot the fakes, the phonies, and the downright silly before you get bamboozled. In this article, we'll take a look at the top five online scams, and what you can do to ensure that you don't get caught in the trap.
Say you come to a website that promises you a free computer if you just answer a few quick questions and give up your email address, phone number, and home address. Here's the catch: not only do you have to opt into a ton of shady advertising, you also have given up your most precious asset on the Web - your privacy. Get ready for a ton of junk mail, intrusive ads, and cold calls; after all, you did just give them your permission. And that computer? It was never going to happen.
How to Beat This Online Scam: Let's face it, nobody is going to give you a free computer or other high-ticket item without getting something in return. Next time, use BugMeNot to register anonymously, or try an anonymous email account.
The Hidden Virus
You get an email about a popular event, news item, holiday, etc. that asks you to click on a video or attachment to see something truly spectacular. Click the link, and five minutes later your computer starts acting strangely, ominous messages start appearing, and worst of all, content that you've saved starts disappearing or becomes corrupted.
You've just introduced a virus into your system.
How to Beat This Online Scam: There are many, MANY email scams that give you the links to all sorts of great stuff on the Web, and sometimes, these emails are actually sent from someone you trust whose system has unfortunately already been infected. However, these clicks can cost you.
Not only can you infect your computer with some pretty intrusive adware, you also run the risk of downloading nasty viruses that can literally destroy your machine. The next time you receive something that has a link to something on the Web that you might be interested in, check out the excellent About Urban Legends site and search for bogus email hoaxes. You'll also want to use free antivirus software that can scan your computer and get rid of malicious software.
Crazy Images, Quotes, and Stories That Are Too Good To Be True
A picture of an amazing tsunami? A photo of the world's biggest dog? Quotes from Abraham Lincoln that sound strangely contemporary? They're on the Web, so they have to be legitimate, right?
How to Beat This Online Scam: There are a lot of images, content, and stories on the Web that aren't real. We all have the gift of common sense and it's imperative to use this when we view content that seems too good to be true online. Make sure that before you pass something on to other people that you have verified facts with reputable sources - such as the ones in this list of best reference sites.
Fake Websites That Promise Fake Services
Believe it or not, you won't always find accurate information on the Web.
In fact, you might come across a site that promises to deliver amazing services for free: like a website that offers to search for social security numbers, or a site that promises free money in exchange for your personal information.
How to Beat This Online Scam: If you come across a website that is promising something that most likely is impossible to deliver, you've most likely come across a website that is attempting to scam you somehow. Use How to Evaluate a Web Source to keep you on the straight and narrow.
In addition, one of the most common online scams is charging people a fee to find information about other people online.
These scams prey upon vulnerable people who are desperate to access information about their loved ones, and take advantage of their mindset to charge them ridiculous amounts of money. Read Should I Pay to Find People Online? to understand why you should never pay for this information.
Coupons and Vouchers for Amazing Deals
A coupon for a free Applebee's meal? How about a voucher for a free copy of Windows Vista, a mountain bike, or maybe even a car? Yes, you've probably seen all these and more in your email or on the Web, but are they for real?
How to Beat This Online Scam: There are a few easy ways you can check to see if that coupon is actually for real. The best way to figure this out is to simply use your common sense: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Anything from free Disneyland vacations to free copies of Microsoft's latest operating system has been offered in these online coupon scams, and unfortunately people fall for them constantly. No matter how tempting it might be to click on that coupon or offer and take advantage of this amazing deal, resist the urge to do so; all these scammers are doing is collecting your email address and personal information in order to pull you further into their trap.
Common Sense is the Best Defense
Scams, hoaxes, and online trickery will continue to be around as long as the Web is, and unfortunately they just keep getting more and more sophisticated. However, even though the technology behind these scams is evolving, common sense still wins the day. By utilizing the tips and tricks outlined in this article along with the gift of common sense, savvy Web searchers will be able to avoid these common online pitfalls.
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