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Avoid scam nightmares

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As a society, we’ve been using the internet for a while, so most of us know that if an online popup tells us we’ve inherited a billion dollars from our estranged foreign relatives, it’s probably too good to be true.

Unfortunately, as we become wise to these old, predictable scams, new ones are being invented – and they’re a lot sneakier.

The common factor with scams is they play on people’s most desperate desires. People want to believe in miracles, and scammers take advantage of that by promising people all their wildest dreams.

There is no one sure-fire way to avoid being scammed: it happens to the best of us.

However, in hopes of helping you avoid these online nightmares, here’s a list of some common scams to look out for and the red flags that should alert you to trouble.

Dating Scams

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In today’s digital world, there’s no reason why the fairy tale romance you always dreamed of can’t start online. As life becomes busier, more and more people are moving to the world of online dating to find that someone special.

Sadly, scammers are always ready to prey on people’s emotions. They use online dating sites to find people who are hopeful, vulnerable and put their heart on the line, then manipulate them into parting with hundreds, sometimes of thousands of dollars.

Dating site scammers will often communicate with their victims all through the night in an attempt to keep them sleep deprived, and thus less likely to react rationally when approached with the scam. So keep on your toes and watch out for the following red flags:

  • Professional-looking or modelling-style photos: scammers will occasionally steal and use photos of models they found online. However, they have been moving increasingly to stealing photos from previous victims or random social media sites to look more “legitimate” and less obvious. You can do a Google image search to see if their picture shows up as someone else.
  • Declarations of strong feelings or love in a short period of time: scammers will tell you everything they think you want to hear. They’ll tell you they believe it’s fate you met, they’ll say they’ve fallen in love with you right away, and may even start referring to you as their “husband” or “wife” and make grand declarations like they want to spend the rest of their life by your side; before you’ve even met them!
  • Attempts to move the relationship away from the dating website as soon as possible: despite the fact they use dating sites to begin their scam, they know that the dating site is a “safe zone” and they will want to isolate you immediately. Scammer accounts often get closed down soon after they’re made, so the quicker they get you away, the better it is for them.
  • Inconsistencies in the conversation: dating site scammers often work in teams and take shifts, so they may not know what they have said to you previously and it may sound like you’re talking to different people each time.
  • Poor spelling and grammar: people will often try to scam others from another country, which means their dialect and language may not match up with where they are claiming to be from.
  • Asking for money: you should immediately block and delete anyone you meet online who asks you for money, regardless of the excuse. Scammers will often play on their victim’s empathy, making up stories about dead relatives, horrible accidents and injuries and other lies designed to pull at your heartstrings.

A new twist in the world of dating scams is that some scammers who have been caught, have used it as an opportunity to extend the scam. After being caught, they will claim to have started contact with the intent to scam, but in the process have truly fallen in love with their victim. They then incorporate their victims into their scams, which can have serious legal consequences for the victim!

Online dating can be a perfectly safe and rewarding experience, just make sure you always have your wits about you.

Puppy Scams

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So maybe you’re not looking for love; you just want the companionship of man’s best friend. Sadly, scammers will prey on this desire too. Expensive or rare breeds of dog will be advertised on sites like Gumtree, Quokka, or Facebook at unusually low prices, or sometimes they’re even advertised as free.

I can tell you from firsthand experience exactly what this scam looks like, though I was wise to their ways and they didn’t get a cent from me. A while back, I was hunting for a husky puppy, so I took to my old faithful friend the Internet for assistance.

It was winter and not many breeders had puppies at the time, and most weren’t expecting a new litter until spring. That’s why when I saw an advertisement for a free husky puppy on Gumtree, I clicked it, knowing it was probably too good to be true.

Even though it was midnight when I sent an expression of interest, I received a reply straight away. This will be your first red flag in a puppy scam. It was a massive wall of text, so I assumed it was copy/pasted: there was no way someone could type so much so fast. I immediately guessed it was a scam, but I decided to see it out, due to a mixture of boredom and curiousity.

In the initial email the scammer claimed to be the loving owner of two husky puppies who couldn’t keep them due to missionary work taking her to save orphans in South America (no exaggeration). I thought this was laying it on a tad thick, but I suppose they wanted to come across as saintly as possible to gain my trust – this will be your second red flag.

The scammer said because she couldn’t take the puppies with her, she was willing to give them away for free to a loving owner, and she asked for proof that I would take good care of the puppies. By asking for “proof”, the scammer aims to look more legitimate. I made up a spiel about dogs I’ve owned in the past, and again within microseconds I got back the “you sound like the perfect owner” response. Of course…

This is when the scam really kicks in. The next response I got was the scammer claiming she was urgently called away and had to take the next flight to South America, and because she hadn’t finished the transaction, she was forced to take the dogs with her. She said I could still have the dogs for free, but I would have to pay for the airfare to fly them back. Not only that, but she said the conditions in South America were so bad, the dogs were in poor health and would die if they didn’t get sent back to Australia. These are your final red flags and they don’t come with an ounce of subtlety.

This seemed like the perfect time to respond that I knew I was speaking to a scammer all along and I had already reported their Gumtree account.

Shopping scams

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Online shopping is a great timesaver and gives us access to all kinds of awesome products that aren’t available at our local shopping centre. However, because no element of life seems to be sacred, scammers have also taken this up as an avenue for their crimes.

There are various online shopping scams out there, but the most prolific appear to be fake online retail sites. The more tech-savvy scammers set up these sites with convincingly sophisticated designs, fake or stolen logos and stolen Australian Business Numbers (ABN).

The way these scams work is they will act as if you are making an ordinary online purchase, but once your money has been transferred the product will never arrive, or a product that’s faulty/poor quality/looks nothing like what you thought you purchased will arrive in its place.

So how do you know which sites you can trust? Here are some of the red flags of an online shopping scam:

  • The item you’re purchasing is unusually cheap
  • The website lacks terms and conditions and other important privacy information
  • You will be asked to pay via a wire transfer – this may be more common for sites like eBay, but you should never trust a “retailer” that requires wire transfers!
  • Poor, low-res or blurry photos of the products
  • Poor spelling and grammar on the site
  • Low ratings from other users

I will usually Google the name of the retailer before purchasing anything from a new store. It becomes apparent quite quickly if people have had bad experiences with a site, and those are ones I make sure to avoid.

Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert in the field of online scams and these are just a few of many different types of scams out in the world, online or offline. Scams are always evolving and scammers are always looking for new avenues to con people. Just look for the red flags, approach things sceptically, and if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Have you come across any online scams? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo credit:

Jonathan Kriz

Geralt

27 comments

  1. Dennis says:

    Talk about scams. I had the Microsoft Edge compromised with a message to all ‘iinet users’ that I had a virus and foetal error and had to ring a number to have the problem resolved. An India male answered the number and requested to do a remote log on. I refused and he hung up. All the normal Anti Virus programs failed to pick up any problem. I understand it is spoofing!!! It cost me a lot of money to rid this problem. Spy Hunter and SUPERAntiSpyware solved the problem. Albeit it seemed to be aimed at iinet users.

  2. John Foley says:

    Have you learned anything about “onetwotrade” ?
    I’m being pestered !
    JRF

  3. Alan says:

    The latest scam is one involving Simply Energy. An email purporting to be a gas bill is being sent out. A quick check of the company via google finds a message from the CEO confirming the email is a scam and a caveat to delete it immediately and not click on the message. Basically for all emails if you don’t recognise the sender treat it as highly suspicious.

  4. I received this from a friend who does fly around to conferences – it was a scammer

    “I just flew to Manila, Philippines for a conference meeting,but I got robbed at the airport. My wallet was stolen by unknown person.

    I have reported to the local police,but I was told it will take time for them to recover my wallet back. Till then I have no other cash on me,as my credit card and cash was inside the wallet. I will be very glad if you can lend me some money.

    I will pay you back when I get back. “

  5. Clinton says:

    Thanks iiNet for looking out for us. Stay true and don’t let others buy you out like TPG your well on your way to becoming an AUS WA success story

  6. Mike says:

    I recently received an email with an attachment that was supposedly a CV from someone who claimed to have high qualifications and was looking for a job. The main page was blank with only a link to the attachment.

    The urge to open the attachment was there but instead of opening it, I deleted the whole email and put a block on the email address. I am sure that if I had opened the attachment I would have got a nasty surprise. Why on earth would someone with high qualifications who was looking for a job send a CV with no covering letter?

    That was a pretty clumsy effort I thought but I sent a broadcast email out to everyone in my address book warning them not to open the attachment if they got the email.

  7. Mrs Passmore says:

    I am received emails from a number of people who I do not know. I delete the email, unopened. How do I block them so I don’t receive any more emails from them?

  8. Kurt says:

    Hi Dennis

    You are not the only one I did inform iinet of the problem but they refused to acknowledge that iinet is being targeted Vipre antivirus got the job done.

  9. Eileen says:

    I recently received an scam from some company called simply energy telling me my gas bill was due
    An amount that was twice the size of any other bill
    I just ignored it as it was not from Alinta
    Really

  10. Eileen says:

    About a year ago my husband put his park home for sale on gumtree, we got 2 or 3 people phoning to say they wanted to buy it and wanted to pay to have it transported to Port Hedland or somewhere remote and if we gave them our banking details they would deposit the purchased price plus $40,000 for transporting it. Luckily my husband was savvy and looked up a scam site and sure enough it was a scam. It would take too long to go into all the details here of how they scam you but just be aware.

  11. marion cross says:

    I keep getting malwarebytes on my screen whenever I put my computer on. It has been going on for quite a few weeks, and I cannot get rid of it. Can you suggest what I can do to get rid of it?

    • Amy Pearce says:

      Hey Marion,

      Malware bytes is a program, much like anti-virus, that checks and removes malware on your computer.
      If it is launching at start up every time you open your computer, you can go into the programs settings and find the option for “launch at start-up” and turn that off.
      Then, the program will only open when you open it.

      Thanks,
      – Amy

  12. Noelle says:

    I have received several emails advising that my Telstra account had been suspended. Click here to find out why. The same wording with ANZ and NAB banks.

    Obviously I did not. Especially as I do not have ANZ or NAB accounts.

  13. Jens says:

    Dennis’reported scam 23 Oct. I had a similar one and couldn’t remove it until I followed your suggestion and downloaded “SUPERAntiSpyware” I think it has managed to remove it. “Spy Hunter” couldn’t find it. I now have both “cocked & ready.”

  14. Chas2Can says:

    Hey All,

    My perfect remedy for a new energy provider who wants to save me money on my energy bill is to:
    1. Don’t give them more info than they already have (they have next to nothing and are fishing)
    2. Occupy their time for as long as I can (while I do household work or those jobs I don’t like doing – it amazes me how much I get done…) and then finally leave the phone somewhere and when I am back they are gone!!
    Havn’t received a call back for a week now!!
    Love it!! Good Luck!

  15. Minette Maley says:

    I have had several emails from “Westpac” telling me something about my account. I block the sender and delete them, I don’t have a bank account with Westpac”

  16. Rob says:

    If you get scam emails or phone calls from “Dennis from the tax office” they should be reported to http://www.acorn.gov.au – a federal & state governments initiative to gather information and evidence to prosecute where possible. Complaining to ISPs like iiNet is pointless as they have no control on the content of the internet / emails / phone calls. The Acorn site also has a lot of good information and advice about these scams.

  17. Peter says:

    I keep getting a pop up when I log on telling me to download a free version of Windows 10. Is this a scam?

    • Brianna Burgess says:

      Difficult to say without visuals, Peter!
      Windows have been known to send notifications when you’re able to upgrade your software. If you’re concerned regarding the authenticity of the pop up, it may be beneficial seeking a second opinion. Alternatively, you can always go directly to the source (website) to ensure you are upgrading securely.

      – Brianna

  18. Danny says:

    Scam caution on Survey emails by Woolies or Coles offering $50 if you complete their email survey. So you think lets help out.. all looks good till you get to the end when they ask for your bank details so they can deposit your $50 for helping with survey.

  19. glen says:

    got an email and a phone call from the above site. avoid them like the plague!! they promise unrealistic returns from binary trading.they also want too much sensitive info to register.

  20. Dan says:

    I did order a mobile phone over the website from “http://jecodistribution.com/”. The site looks serious. Could not find bad comments on the web about the company. AVOID at all!!! Item was never send!! I did pay PAYPAL with credit card. Fortunately my money is refunded.
    What I am wondering is that this site is still active! How can it be shut down???
    Dan

  21. RR says:

    I have been getting a very dodgy looking pop up saying I need to update something or other… Initially it was on one page that linked to a number of radio stations, now it is coming up an a couple of other pages I frequently use. The first one is linked to “reimage”.

    I have AVG and they checked and “thought they fixed it”.

    Now I get a second one asking to update media player. I dont know what it is linked to.
    I am also now getting pages blocked – westnet email in particular. Any suggestions?

  22. Pam says:

    Iinet service interuption notice received with very poor spelling and grammatical construction. The scam is inviting the receiver to respond to the email for more info. I don’t usually read these so it may be a very regular attempt.

  23. Matt says:

    Hi all, I noticed a comment/question about Windows 10… MS in their infinite wisdom are offering (free) upgrades to Win10.
    I have a home network of 4 Win7 PCs and my elderly father has a Win7 laptop, all of these a little while back started show the little Win10 logo on the start bar offering the upgrade to Win10… My farther to it as Microsoft should know what is best and went ahead and upgrade. Big mistake… Firstly being that most of the hardware he has is old I.e his laptop manufacturer didn’t have drivers for Win10, nor did his MFC printer have either and then just
    trying to configure network & firewall settings is a nightmare i.e. third party web browser software isn’t always going to install so your going to be ‘stuck’ with Edge browser (a beta version) … anyway long story short, after month of battling Win10 if finally beat it… I rolled it back to Win7.
    That’s all off topic … Win10 is being offered like malware to existing legit users… But before be lured into the upgrade do your due diligence and as they say and “check if this is right for you ” Cheers All

  24. Wayne says:

    New phone Letv , haven’t put in sim but learning how to use with Internet connections.
    6 pop up scam/spam Reward given 6s /S6 apple, long term iinet customer pick your prize only 4 mins, oz prize winnings, facebook wants to make you a winner.

    Looks like you have won – just press ok scam should be on list.

    Any suggestions as my next steps to block this happening. Maybe it bloate ware or something in preloaded apps.

    Thanks

  25. Julie says:

    Last week I got a phonecall scam. The caller said he was from NBN that they were in the area and he wanted me to confirm my details for installation of NBN. It sounded plausible at first but so have other “agent” scams wanting you to change providers on services. These people have my husbands name and the phone number and address. When they insisted I confirm my name I finally twigged. He got quite aggressive when I said he could call me “Mrs (sirname)” and said if I didn’t confirm details they wouldn’t be able to install NBN and did I not want it. I hung up rather upset. I went to the NBN site to get more info about what the procedure will be and signed up for an email notice. At least with email you can usually tell which site it comes from. You can also read the scamwatch info page here.
    https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/news/beware-of-nbn-scams

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