Scams are deceptive and fraudulent schemes carried out by individuals or groups to trick people into providing money, valuable information, or services under false pretences.
Scams are designed to look like the real thing and they often succeed because they catch you off guard when you’re not expecting it. Scammers employ various illegal tactics to exploit people's trust, emotions, or lack of awareness, with the ultimate goal of financial gain or other illicit benefits.
These schemes can target individuals or organizations of any size, across backgrounds, ages, and income levels, making everyone susceptible to scams. However, statistics indicate that older individuals, particularly those with limited tech savviness, are often victims of these fraudulent activities.
Why do people still fall for scams?
The allure of quick and substantial financial gain when faced with financial difficulties is a major reason. Scammers exploit these circumstances, increasing people's desperation, clouding judgment, and making them susceptible to fraudulent schemes.
Additionally, scammers can take advantage of new technology, products, services, and major events to create believable stories that can convince even the most tech-savvy individuals causing them to part with their money or personal information. This is why it is important to avoid overconfidence in your ability to detect scams and stay up to date with the latest technological updates
Usually, scammers target different people based on their different needs or vulnerabilities, employing both psychological and emotional strategies such as fear-mongering, or urgency tactics to pressure them into quick decisions.
Recognizing the signs of a scam is crucial to protect against falling victim. As revealed by ExpressVPN in this article on the top 2024 online scams to avoid, these six signs can help identify a potential scam:
- if you are randomly contacted by an institution or a friendly stranger;
- if they insist on immediate action;
- if they ask for personal information;
- if they provide unusual payment methods;
- if they tell you to keep the transaction secret; and
- if the offer is too good to be true.
The top 10 online scams to avoid in 2024
#1 – Romance Scams
These types of scams often target vulnerable people who may be seeking companionship, love, or emotional support. Usually initiated online, scammers create convincing fake profiles, often using stolen photos and other details to appear attractive and genuine and invest effort into building bogus emotional connections with unsuspecting individuals. After establishing a bond, scammers create fictional emergencies or personal crises to justify the need for financial assistance, manipulating the victim's emotions and goodwill.
#2 – Deepfake (Generative AI) Scams
Despite Generative AI being beneficial in various sectors, the dark side of the technology emerges with deepfakes. The proliferation of generative AI tools like DALL-E 2, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion has made it easy for scammers to weaponize the technology to create highly realistic and convincing videos, images, and audio recordings, impersonating trusted persona to deceive victims into sharing personal information or sending funds.
#3 – Charity Scams
If there's anything scammers love more, it is exploiting the emotions of people about any trending global crisis. Using a form of emotional manipulation strategy they create deceptive charitable initiatives pretending they are collecting money on behalf of the victims of a crisis. Their strategy could be anything from setting up fake websites that look like those run by real charities to calling, emailing, or approaching you on the street seeking donations for a charity.
#4 – Job Scams
Scammers often lure job seekers based on the common desire for easy employment and financial stability promising high-paying positions that require minimal effort. They mimic professional communication by sending enticing recruitment emails and fake official company pages that redirect individuals to fraudulent websites where they input personal information that can be used for illegal activities. The allure of quick and substantial financial gains can cloud judgment, making you more susceptible to falling for these false promises.
#5 – Healthcare Insurance Scams
Another big scam approach is offering fake healthcare insurance plans, promising comprehensive coverage at low prices. Scammers call often call directly requiring you to provide some personal information and your credit card number to sign you up for goods and services that are never provided. Notably older adults are often targeted and scammed of their money or their identity stolen as they use health care services more.
#6 – Government Account Takeovers
To access a website or app, you usually need a combination of email, username, or phone number, a password, and multi-factor authentication. Scammers are known to exploit some vulnerabilities in digital services to collect the personal information of unsuspecting victims, parading as official government agencies. This type of scam called the government account takeover (ATO) scam, is becoming increasingly concerning as more government agencies digitize their services.
#7 – 5G-Related Scams
The excitement around 5G technology has attracted scammers who exploit consumers' eagerness to adopt the latest advancements. Checking with official sources from your mobile service provider or trusted tech websites for accurate information about 5G could be a saving grace from this type of scam.
#8 – Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Payment Scams
The ubiquity of P2P payment apps like PayPal and Cash App has attracted scammers, leading to a rise in P2P payment scams. Perhaps the most common scamming approach, the convenience of P2P payment scams makes it the go-to for scammers to deceive users into sending money or divulging personal information for fraudulent purposes.
#9 – Celebrity Endorsement Scams
Scammers have also been known to exploit celebrity endorsements to promote scams, luring unsuspecting fans with promises of financial gains. It is crucial to investigate projects independently and be wary of urgency tactics. Dig deeper into the project's whitepaper, team background, and potential red flags identified by independent reviewers.
#10 – Package Delivery Scams
Package delivery scams capitalize on consumers' trust in delivery services. Scammers use phishing techniques, sending messages that appear to be from legitimate delivery companies to deceive victims. To protect yourself from this king of scams, check directly with the delivery company through official channels and be cautious of unexpected requests for payment related to purported deliveries.
Top Tips to Avoid Falling for Scams in 2024
- Verify the identity of contacts through known channels if you receive suspicious calls or messages.
- Avoid interacting with suspicious profiles and scrutinize unsolicited messages or friend requests.
- Check for official websites, and physical addresses, and thoroughly research companies offering job, investment, and educational offers.
- Be cautious with unsolicited communications, especially those requesting sensitive information.
- Never give personal information (name, address, social security number, credit card number, etc.) to a stranger on the phone, online, by mail or in person.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for added security when communicating online.
- Double-check recipient details before transferring funds to prevent falling for scams.
- Avoid falling for urgency and scarcity tactics, and take time to research and conduct due diligence before making any investments.
- Always read the fine print and verify the legitimacy of insurance plans with state insurance departments or trusted healthcare providers.
- Stay informed about the latest technological advancements to minimize susceptibility to tech-based scams.
- Avoid overconfidence in your ability to detect scams and be careful not to act impulsively, beware of emotional manipulation.
While regulatory bodies play a pivotal role, individual awareness is equally paramount. The ten scams highlighted, ranging from romance to package delivery scams, offer some insights into what potential threats can look like.
The article also concludes with a practical list of tips to identify scams and safeguard against them in various online scenarios.
By staying informed about evolving scams, verifying information, and trusting your instincts, you can empower yourself to navigate the digital landscape while safeguarding your personal and financial well-being.