When you hear the word “con man,” you probably imagine someone like Leonardo DiCaprio playing notorious con man Frank Abganale Jr. in the movie. Catch Me If You Can. He is intelligent. He is good-natured. He is charming. He strength being a sociopath, but for some reason you forgive him.
And his targets are big, such as government or large corporations or banks. You know: the symbols of “man”; organizations that not only can afford the loss, but might actually deserve it.
But as romantic as DiCaprio looks in those aviator goggles, the 21st century con man is very different. Instead of being armed with a closet full of disguises and a charming smile, today’s scammers rely on an internet connection and social engineering to earn their living.
And their target? You. And your mother, your sister, your friends, your boss – anyone they can reach and convince to hand over some of their hard-earned money.
These modern “scam artists” (although of course they could be people of either sex – scamming is not a gender-specific career) are also far, far more prolific than Mr. Abagnale would have it. never could dream. In fact, a recent Avast survey found that 75% of Americans have been targeted by scammers at least once.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that 75% of Americans actually have has been scam, just that they were targeted. But this high number is a good indication of the true prevalence of the modern scam. It’s a numbers game: there are hundreds of thousands of “Abagnales” today and they each target as many potential victims as possible.
To make sure you (and your mom, sister, friends and boss) don’t fall victim to an online scammer, here are six common types of internet scams and how to avoid them.
1. Donation scams
Donation scams are a particularly gross type of scam because they exploit people’s natural, human instincts to help others. Avast researchers recently identified a donation scam which includes a video of a little girl recounting how she is dying of cancer and pleading with the viewer to donate to her family. It’s an exploitation not only of the viewer, but also of that little girl who may or may not be sick and couldn’t consent to this anyway.
Other donation scams include crowdfunding campaigns that don’t actually go to the intended recipients and fraudulent phone calls claiming to be from a legitimate charity.
2. Tech Support Scams
If you’ve ever received a phone call, email, or DM about a problem with your computer, you’ve been targeted by a tech support scam. In these scams, a fake computer scientist – often posing as a representative of a legitimate company, such as Avast – reaches out and convinces the victim that something terrible is going to happen to their device if they don’t give the crook access to his device. at present. They mostly target the elderlywhich they assume they will have less technical knowledge and more assets than young people.
But here’s the thing: no legitimate tech support staff will contact you if you haven’t done so first. So if you or someone you love receives this kind of call or message out of the blue, hang up. We promise you that your computer will be fine.
3. Cryptocurrency scams
With the combination of cryptocurrency dominating the news, the fact that very few people obtain yet, and that crypto is designed to be untraceable means it’s an area that’s ripe for scammers.
And we see crypto scams everywhere: instagram, Twitterpeople pretending to be victims of the war in Ukraine – same crypto romance scams. Scammers pose as crypto tutors, IT support, or even romantic interests. Cryptocurrency, it seems, is the new “gift card” of payment methods for scammers.
Your best bet for not falling for a crypto scam is to not take any advice from someone you only know online about cryptocurrency. Sure, there are legit trainers out there, but they’re buried under a huge pile of fakers who will absolutely steal your money. Don’t let anyone else manage your portfolio; don’t invest in sites someone sends you; and stick to legitimate business markets.
You wouldn’t just jump into the normal stock market and start sending your money to random people, would you? So don’t do it with cryptocurrency either.
4. Romance scams
One of the most common and oldest scams, romance scams target people who are looking for love and connection. The scammer reaches out to the victim – via dating sites, social media, even text messages – and builds a relationship with them. Then, once the victim thinks they are in love, the scammer creates a situation that compels the victim to send money or goods. Think about the situations that arise in the long-running show, Catfishor the recent Netflix documentary, The Tinder scammer.
Romance scams are tricky because doesn’t everyone want to be in love? But your best bet to avoid falling victim to this type of scam is to never give money to someone you only know online. It’s tempting, because of course you want to help someone dear to you! But exchanging money should be a hard line for everyone.
5. Rental scams
Online rental scams have been around for ages – I almost fell for a path in 2011. They take advantage of people who are really desperate for affordable housing by offering fake apartments at well below market prices. Then they insist that the victim post bail without ever seeing the apartment. The victim, not wanting to miss an incredible deal, sends the money – and the scammer disappears.
The best way to avoid falling for a rental scam is to use the smell test: if it smells like fish, it’s probably fish. Clues like weird grammar, refusal to talk on the phone, and a price just high enough to be believable are other signs.
6. Sextortion scams
Sextortion emails threaten to post compromising intimate photos of the potential victim unless they pay a demanded ransom. Scammers know that a lot of people have nude photos these days and they hope their targets will be embarrassed enough to pay rather than tell anyone.
Another egregious example of a sextortion scam is the story of Hunter Moore which was featured in the recent Netflix documentary, The most hated man on the internet. Moore not only solicited intimate footage from ex-Avengers, he also hacked into victims’ devices, stole their photos, posted them online, and then demanded a ransom to bring them back down.
These two examples are very different forms of sextortion. For emails, just ignore them – the scammer doesn’t have your photos and you’re safe. For revenge porn, there are now laws in most states protecting your rights if you’ve been targeted by someone like Moore or a revengeful ex.
Despite the romantic view we collectively have of scammers, scammers suck. And if current trends continue, chances are you’ve been targeted or will be targeted soon. So stay alert, spread the word to your family and friends, and remember: it’s better to risk being rude than to risk being a victim.