How to Fight Back Against Online Scams

The internet can be a great place, full of thorough information, convenient shopping, and endless entertainment.

On the other hand, it is also a place where scammers thrive. Their anonymity, plus their targets’ sense of security, helps to keep the online scamming industry alive and well. But you don’t have to be just one more victim.

The following information can help you to protect yourself and fight back against common online scams:

Email Phishing

Email has made it more convenient than ever for scammers to cast a broad net in their efforts to try and catch unwitting victims. Email phishing has occurred for just about as long as email has existed, and it keeps happening. Why? Because it continues to work.

Classic phishing hooks include offers for millions of dollars from Nigerian princes or sweepstakes winnings. All you have to do is give them some sort of identifying information, your online banking password, or Social Security Number. With these kinds of phishing emails, you know hopefully know better than to fall for such outlandish promises.

But many email scammers have become much more sophisticated in their attempts to get your financial or other personal information. These are subtler approaches, ones that aren’t immediately identifiable as fake. You may get communications that look like they’re from your bank, your boss, or even a government agency. Except links in these official-looking emails actually lead to spoofed websites or end up loading malware onto your computer.

To avoid falling victim to email phishing scams, you can do a few simple things:

  • Hover your cursor over links to see if they go to legitimate websites.
  • Verify the sender’s email.
  • Note the email’s tone and grammar for excessive urgency or errors.
  • If you’re still unsure, don’t click on anything or reply to the email. Contact the supposed sender directly by phone or in-person to verify the legitimacy of the email.

Ad Pop-Ups

Another way that scammers try to get your attention is with strategic online pop-ups. The subject matter is typically as tempting as phishing emails, as well as equally hard to believe if you take the time to think about it.

How likely is it that you are really the millionth visitor to a website, and will be rewarded for it? And do you really think it realistic to get a popular gaming console in exchange for participating in a 5-minute survey?

These pop-ups are often bright, bold, and written with exciting language. But you may also notice that the language sounds stilted, or even has grammatical errors in it. If that isn’t enough to convince you that it’s a trick, simply hover your cursor over the button you’re supposed to click. Odds are the link is to a spoofed or otherwise illegal website.

Your best bet is to just close any pop-up you may get. And doublecheck your pop-up blocker settings to make sure they’re still filtering these spammy ads out at the right sensitivity.

Website Spoofing

Many phishing emails or ad pop-ups lead to a fake website, otherwise known as a spoofed website. Scammers essentially create a duplicate of a legitimate website with the intention of compelling you to log-in. It has virtually the same layout, logos, content, everything. By the time you realize that you are not actually on an official website, the scammer has your log-in information that they can use on the real website.

It can be difficult to tell if a site is fake or not. But there can be some tells.

In the main field where a site’s URL is shown, you should see what looks like a padlock in front of the web address. That lock tells you that the site and your connection to it is secure; you can click on the lock itself to verify that. If you don’t see a lock, the connection is not secure. In that case, you should probably leave the site asap.

And take a close look at the design of the site itself. While the page may look genuine, closer inspection could reveal small mistakes. You may notice a logo that has pixelated edges, colors that are just a bit paler or darker than normal. It could just feel…off.

Finally, before entering any information, you can try the cursor hover technique over any links on the page to see where they actually go. And simply trust your instincts. If something seems weird about a site, just leave it.

Ultimately, taking the time to really look at questionable emails, ads, or websites and using your common sense are your best tools for fighting back against online scams. And now, with information in hand about what to look for, you are bound to come out the winner.