Avoiding Online Scams in the Digital Age

It feels like you hear nearly every week about a new online scam. While the internet has changed the world in so many great ways, like with many things in life, there is a downside. Online scams are still widely prevalent and despite the misconception that this is primarily a concern for senior citizens, a new study by the FTC found that in fact more millennials are getting scammed out of money online. 

At Needham Bank, protecting your money and personal information is a top priority. That’s why we’ve outlined how to spot the latest online scams and how you can protect yourself with these internet safety tips.

Amazon scams

Recently, fraudsters are calling customers posing as Amazon and asking for their debit or credit card information. They’re claiming that the payment method they have on file for your Amazon account is invalid, and then ask you to provide updated card details to fraudulently obtain your personal information.

Another Amazon scam to be aware of is one that utilizes a fictitious Amazon refund to get customers to provide their personal banking information. Fraudsters will manipulate your online banking account by transferring your own money from one account to another to make it appear that you have a “refund” from Amazon. Once the fraudster completes the transfer, they will call to collect the wrongful “refund” they are tricking you to believe is from Amazon. Learn more about this specific Amazon scam

What should you do if you’ve been contacted by someone pretending to be from Amazon?

  • Don’t give any personal information over the phone
  • If you are unsure of the legitimacy of the phone call, hang up and call Amazon directly to verify before going any further.

Facebook scams

The Better Business Bureau warns about a new crop of online fraud happening within Facebook. It starts with a “friend or relative” who contacts you through Facebook saying you are entitled to free money. These can come from fake profiles or hacked accounts. The catch? You need to pay up front for shipping or processing or provide other sensitive information that can be used for identity theft.  Use these tips to avoid a Facebook hack or scam:

  • Don’t give out your password (and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts) 
  • Avoid accepting unknown friend requests 
  • Use a secured network (not public wi-fi) for signing into any accounts (especially your bank account)
  • Keep apps, browsers and antivirus software updated 

Scam websites 

The old phrase “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is” certainly applies to shopping online. There are a slew of fake shopping websites popping up lately, aiming to scam you out of your hard-earned money. Learn how to spot a fake website or online store:

  • Bad English and/or poor website design
  • Super-low prices 
  • Bootleg logo, store name and/or URL (e.g. “you-pay-less-4-mac-stuff.com” or a site with a URL that’s one or two letters off from a legitimate domain)
  • Unable to accept credit or debit card payments 
  • Suspicious sounding reviews 

How can you protect yourself from fake shopping websites?

Texting scams, or “smishing”

Similar to phishing scams, which are fake emails that look to be sent form a legitimate company, there’s a text message version of this scam tactic which is called smishing (think SMS). In layman’s terms, this is a fraudulent text message sent to you with an urgent message that something is wrong, and you need to click on a link, send sensitive personal information or simply reply to the text in order to resolve the situation. They may also promise free gifts or offers in exchange for personal information. How can you handle to a text message you think may be spam? 

  • Don’t reply or click on any links 
  • Call the company directly if you are suspicious that the text may not be real (use the phone number on their real site) 
  • Delete the text

Make money online scams

One of the biggest categories of online scams are ones that promise you can make money from home, (doing little work of course), or make money easily online. Here are some to watch out for:

  • Work from home scams: There are a lot of ways you can make money online, but also a lot of traps, as listed by The Penny Hoarder. Watch out for jobs that require you to pay in order to start work, those that sound too good to be true.
  • Crypto-currency accounts: This scam offers you a bank account to deposit your bitcoin or other cryptocurrency into with promises of doubling or tripling your money. 
  • Generate passive income with our system: This scam sells you a proven system to help you become an overnight financial success. Typically, these are loaded with fake testimonials and bogus information. 

Online dating or romance scams

If you’ve heard of “catfishing,” you can imagine what this new breed of scamming is all about. This increasingly popular online scam involves a fraudster preying on vulnerable people seeking a connection in an attempt to lure them into draining their bank account. 

Oftentimes, online dating scams fool their victims into falling in love with them by using information their victim posted in their dating or social media profile. Romance scammers will try to quickly woo their targets and move the conversation to a private channel, like your phone. Then, all of a sudden, something horrible happens. This could be a family member is in the hospital, someone died, or your new romance lost their job, which is when they’ll ask for money or gifts. Explore these tips to avoid falling for a romance scam: 

  • Don’t give money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in real life
  • Avoid sending photos of yourself, which can be used for blackmail 
  • Be careful about what you post about yourself on social media 

How to report a scammer

Do you think you or someone you know is getting scammed? Here’s how to report a scammer and form a paper trail of information against fraudsters:

If you suspect you’ve become a victim of fraud or identity theft, call 1-781-444-2100 or your local branch as soon as possible. Report suspicious activity, lost or stolen cards, and all other fraud immediately.