NEWS EXTRA: Horrific stories of scammers, how they trick victims, empty their accounts of billions of dollars, leave their victims to endure depression
Internet fraud is a cybercrime or deception which makes use of the Internet and could involve hiding of information or providing incorrect information for the purpose of tricking victims to release their money or property.
Internet fraud is not considered a single, distinctive crime but covers a range of illegal and illicit activities that are committed in the cyberspace. It is, however, different from theft since, in this case, the victim voluntarily and knowingly provides the information, money or property to the perpetrator.
The internet which ought to be a safe place is not anymore as various scamming activities are carried out daily nonstop. Scams cost individuals, organisations and governments trillions of dollars each year in estimated losses, and many victims endure depression over loss of huge cash to the cybercriminals.
There is no other crime, in fact, that affects so many people from almost all ages, backgrounds and geographical locations as cybercrime globally.
In recent years, fraud has grown into a global criminal activity as technology has lowered its cost while simultaneously making it easier than ever to reach millions of consumers instantly.
Unlike in the past where meagre information was shared, nowadays in the 21st century, information is accessible and no one can really say they are oblivious of cyber fraud but people still fall prey to these scams worldwide
This article discloses various kinds of scams perpetrated by fraudsters. Some findings are in line with other researches but others challenge common assumptions about fraud.
One of such scams is online dating or romance scams. As the internet plays important role in our social lives and social media we access every day, it’s inevitable to use apps to search for love as well. Online dating apps are very popular these days and they are a great avenues to meet future life partners.
Some men and ladies have been lucky to meet their life partners on dating sites and they are carrying on well. But not all scenarios have a happy end. A romance scam usually takes place on social dating networks, like Facebook, or by sending a simple email to the potential target, and affect thousands of victims from all over the world.
The male scammers are most often than not located in West Africa, while the female scammers are mostly from the eastern parts of Europe or other foreign nations.
Fraudsters have abused this scamming method for years by using online dating services to cause havoc to their victims. They improve their approach just by testing the potential victims’ reactions. Thereafter, they show extreme love to these women who are usually older than them.
They promise them marriage which in some instance, may eventually materialise but on the other hand, it is to gain citizenship in their spouse’ country. Others keep sweet talking the foreigners, telling them all type of horrific lies with the aim of getting money from them and most times leave them perpetually broke.
Scammers tell their victims to pay in a specific way, they often insist on payment by sending money through a money transfer company or by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the number on the back.
Another scamming method is through hijacked profile scam. This is also known as social media impersonation scam. This is certainly the most popular online fraud in West Africa. Through this method, cyber fraudsters harvest personal data from millions of social media channels without the users’ consent.
Facebook and Instagram are still the most popular social media networks where everyone is active and uses it on a daily basis to keep in touch with friends and colleagues. Unfortunately, it has become the perfect place for online scammers to find their victims.
People tend to disclose more personal information about themselves such as birthday, e-mail, address, hometown and relationship status in their social networking profiles.This personally identifiable information could be used by fraudsters to steal users’ identities, and posting this information on social media makes it a lot easier for fraudsters to take control of it.
A student of Mass Communication, Temitope Simon, has this to say on profile scamming.
“Scammers follow up a particular person, maybe a celebrity or someone whose social media handle is booming with followers. They open another account with the persons details and start illegal transactions with the profile of the person. In some cases the main account of the person is hijacked and the fraudster starts asking money from the contacts on the account”.
Another is make money fast scams which is other wise called ponzi scheme. An average Nigerian is looking for any means to survive. Fraudsters will lure you into believing you can make money easily and fast on the internet. They promise non-existent jobs, including plans and methods of getting rich quickly. It is a quite simple and effective approach, because it addresses a basic need for money, especially when someone is in a difficult financial situation.
This scamming method is similar to the romance scam where cyber attackers address the emotional side of victims. The fraudulent posting of non-existent jobs for a variety of positions is part of the online criminals’ arsenal. Using various job types, such as work-at-home, the victim is lured into giving away personal information and financial data with the promise of a well-paid job that will bring lots of money in a very short period of time.
One can recall how the popular MMM vanished into thin air and left so many people shattered and destabilised, despite that some other ponzi schemes still erupted and alot of persons were still victimized.
Fejiro Ingram, a Delta based basketballer and cyberguru said: “people like to think of themselves as being consistent and committed individuals. If we say we are going to do something, then generally we will, as failure to do so may dent our sometimes fragile self-esteem.
“Fraudsters take advantage of this by getting us to commit to little steps that then escalate in nature. For example, by simply getting people to answer their “trivial” questions (how are you today?), the fraudster is getting their prey to fool themselves into believing that they are happy to talk to this unknown person.
“And, of course, trivial questions lead to more personal ones, like who do you bank with? Having answered one question, it would be inconsistent not to answer another one. And, after all, we like to perceive of ourselves as helpful and polite individuals.”
There are also fake shopping websites. There are arrays of people who love shopping and it’s easier and more convenient to do it on the Internet with a few clicks in your bedroom. But for your online safety, be cautious about the sites you visit.
There are thousands of websites out there that provide false information and might redirect you to malicious links, giving hackers access to your most valuable data. If you spot a great online offer which is “too good to be true”, you might be tempted to say “yes” instantly, but you need to learn how to spot a fake shopping site so you don’t get scammed.
It is strongly recommended that one should read online shopping security tips to keep oneself safe from data breaches or other online threats.
In most cases, the victim pays the goods which appear to be very cheap but at the end of the day, the goods are not delivered.
There are also travel scams. These scams are commonly used during holiday periods, vacations for Christmas or New Year’s Day. Here’s how it happens: you receive an email containing an amazing offer for an exceptional and hard to refuse destination (usually an exotic place) that expires in a short period of time which you can’t miss.
If it sounds too good to be true, it might look like a travel scam. So don’t fall for it! The problem is that some of these offers actually hide some necessary costs until you pay for the initial offer.
Others just take your money without sending you anywhere. In such cases, it is recommended you study carefully the travel offer and look for hidden costs, such as: airport taxes, tickets that you need to pay to access a local attraction, check if the meals are included or not, other local transportation fees between your airport and the hotel or between the hotel and the main attractions mentioned in the initial offer.
As a general rule, it is advisable that you go with the trustworthy, well-known travel agencies.
You can also check if by paying individually for plane tickets and for accommodation you receive the same results as in the received offer.
If you love to travel, you can easily fall prey to airline scams by simply looking for free airline tickets. Airline scams are some of the most popular travel scams.
Some scams are so well organized and really convincing, and people behind them are so difficult to catch, we need to always keep our guard up and stay informed about the latest scamming strategies