Far from the (relatively) innocent times of “Nigerian Prince” emails in the 1990s, online scams have grown both in volume and in prowess with technology. Do you know what to look out for?
With the rise of artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency, and the use of social media for virtually every part of our life, law enforcement is overwhelmed with tracking the latest scams and warning the public on what to look out for.
Historically, one of the biggest scams is the old get-rich-quick scheme, which begins with a promise of making a lot of money quickly, with little or no risk. While many people have grown savvy to offers like this showing up in their email spam box, many of the new schemes have been targeting people through social media and dating sites.
To steal your love
Christine Todaro, an attorney at the Federal Trade Commission, said more people have been dropping their guard when encountering these threats in places like online dating sites where they may be more vulnerable to trust a stranger or giving away private information.
“Online love interest act like they are a successful business person or investor. And they’ll talk about how they have found financial freedom with crypto investments. And then they encourage you to start investing. And then they might offer to help you by investing your money,” she said.
However, Todaro said if a stranger online, no matter how nice they seem, is encouraging you to invest money with them, the odds are it’s a scam.
“And if you give them money to invest, it’s going into a scammers pocket,” she said.
Dating sites aren’t the only place where people are more vulnerable to online scams. Career websites, such as LinkedIn or Indeed, have also become a space for fraud to take place.
“What they’ll say is that there’s a job, maybe even there’s one that lets you work from home, they may conduct online interviews, they may have a real looking website,” Todaro said. “But in reality, there’s no job. And the scammers are really just looking for your money or your personal information.”
Like dating sites, many more people have found themselves susceptible to scams at career sites. More people have their guard down and might be more emotionally vulnerable and easier to manipulate.
Due to lack of regulation and transparency, currency of choice for most scams in recent years has been cryptocurrency. If someone wants you to send them cryptocurrency, for whatever reason, that too is a red flag.
“There’s nothing low risk about cryptocurrency investments,” Todaro said. “So if you see those types of claims, it’s likely a scam. If you if you’re talking to someone on a dating site or app and they want to discuss cryptocurrency, or if they asked you to send some cryptocurrency to them, that’s a scam.”
Too good to be true? It most likley is.
Overall, Todaro said even if you’ve been chatting with the person online for a while and they seem serious, if someone presents a get rich scheme, whether it be in real estate, stocks, or any purchase, it’s more than likely a scam.
With AI deepfakes and voice cloning also on the rise, Toldaro said the scams will continue to get more intricate with the new technology. However, she said there are certain, basic principles that can help keep you safe.
“You might hear that you can make money online, or through real estate, in the stock market, or by buying things. These are just some examples,” she said. “Scammers nearly almost guarantee that you’ll be successful and they pressure you to act fast. So if someone is telling you that there’s a guaranteed way to make money, it’s a scam, period.”
Even though it can be embarrassing to admit you’ve been had, if you have been a victim of a scam, Todaro said you may, in some cases, have a remedy to get your money back.
“The most important thing to do is to act quickly. You should contact whoever you use to pay the scammer. Tell them that you’ve been scammed and ask if they can reverse the payment,” she said. “There’s a chance that you’d be able to get your money back. But again, it’s really important to act quickly.”
In addition, if you’ve been had or suspect someone is attempting to run a scam, she said it’s important to report it to the FTC.
For more resources on how to protect yourself, or to report a scam, visit the FTC’s identity theft website.