The internet is an amazing place that’s brought people together, and allowed for the exchange of ideas, discussions, and products.
And like anything that brings people together, there’ll always be those looking to prey on and scam those around them. It’s a fact of life, and if you dig through your email junk or spam folder to see what’s been filtered out, you’ll find there’s no shortage of people trying to sell you something entirely questionable.
Here are some steps to both avoid this as well as take measures of your own.
Arguably the most prolific form of scamming on the internet comes from questionable emails that appear to be from recognizable companies or people. These emails generally ask you to click over to an unknown website, where you’ll be asked to enter your login and password and a third party can begin harvesting your information from there. In more extreme cases, these websites will ask you to enter your credit or debit card information as well.
It’s moments like these where you have to look over the email, judge whether it’s unexpected, notice if the graphics or logo appear different or out of place. One dead giveaway that often appears is that these emails generally arrive from a public email such as Gmail, Yahoo, Live, or Outlook. If this is present, it’s generally a phishing attempt and can be safely deleted.
As popular as cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have become, they’re being seen as more and more of a scam these days, complete with wildly volatile price swings and little to tangibly back the asset. If someone from out of nowhere approaches you online to invest in Bitcoin or a cryptocurrency you’ve never heard of, please back away from this. Cryptocurrency, at present, is the search for a greater fool who will believe the asset will gain value, and this is not worth tying your 401(k) money up in.
The same can be said for NFTs (non-fungible tokens), which act as encrypted, digital receipts for assets such as images. While these may be considered an expensive receipt for an asset, their resale value has become a punchline, the asset itself doesn’t currently act as a legal receipt of copyright ownership in court, and this is once again the search for a greater fool to sell to. Please do not support this marketplace or lend it your money.
Allies in the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Reports, and the FBI
As intimidating and scam-heavy as the internet can sometimes be, always remember that there are allies to connect with out there. The Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) acts as a long-standing pressure group that works to keep businesses up to par, has an excellent Facebook group you can connect with and has a wide community you can tap into at their Facebook group (www.facebook.com/BetterBusinessBureau). The same can also be said for Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.com), which has an incredibly active community of people looking to protect each other from online scams and fraud and has a prolific Facebook discussion community that can be consulted at www.facebook.com/ConsumerReports.
Finally, if you’re looking to report online scam activity and bring the hammer down on the scammers themselves, you can always report activity to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center/tip line at www.ic3.gov. This doesn’t necessarily mean SWAT team and/or G Men will immediately kick in their door, but it helps to mount complaints and build a case that law enforcement will eventually look into.
The online world isn’t out to hurt you, but you’ll need to be careful, ask for help from people you trust, and exercise some caution.
Chris Barylick is the owner of East Bay Mac Menders (www.eastbaymacmenders.com) as well as a veteran technology writer since October, 2000. His work has appeared in Macworld, PC World, TechRadar, the Washington Post, Playboy, PC Gamer, and an assortment of other publications.
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